The Neutering of Politics

Aggressiveness seems to be all over the news this week. The talking heads and media pundits all prattle on about how candidate Al Gore exhibits too much, whereas candidate George W. displays too little. "Will Gore's aggressiveness hurt him with independents and undecided voters?" "Is G.W.'s laid back, non-confrontational style part of his strategy to draw Al Gore into an aggressive posture, so as to make him look bad to independents, yadda yadda, blah blah…"

In fact, if there was a consistent theme running through all three of this fall's presidential debates, it was the media fascination with Mr. Gore's "Goldilocks and the Porridge" tango with his "aggressive" personae – too hot, too cold, just right. Even the VP seems to agree, as he has asked for permission to rebroadcast the last debate just prior to the election. What sort of masochist it would take to watch it again is open to speculation, but obviously Mr. Gore is proud of his performance.

All of which raises a simple question: What's wrong with aggressive politics?

Throughout American history, the debating process was meant to be a public vetting of ideas. Toss your best out on the table and let the loyal opposition counter. Read the Lincoln – Douglas debates, the debates over the constitutionality of creating a national bank, the Webster-Hayne debate, et al. These men were not afraid to directly challenge each other, and certainly were not concerned about being perceived as "too aggressive." The whole idea would have been considered preposterous.

All of this discussion of aggressiveness-as-sin certainly does not bear itself out in any other aspect of our current society. We live in a culture that thrives on violent confrontation, from our fascination with Jerry Springer and the WWF, to rap and metal music, video games, and cinema. Why would people who watch men smash each other over the head with chairs be put off by a couple of guys in suits arguing over an issue that might actually have some impact on their lives?

The only answer can be that the media and the politicians themselves don't want real debates. Instead, they want controlled "infomercials," cut into bite-sized chunks for easy analysis and digestion. Let's not have any real discussion of the issues going on out there.

Why was Libertarian Party candidate Harry Browne excluded from he debates? Because he would have asked Gore and Bush whether they would be better men today if they had spent ten years in a federal penitentiary for their youthful indiscretions with illegal drugs. He would have pointed out in detail how far we have gone beyond the constitutional limits of federal power.

Why was the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan excluded from the debates? Because Pat would have asked the major party candidates embarrassing questions about America's failing ability to manage immigration on our borders, and the impact that this has had on our disastrous "War on Drugs." He would have raised troubling questions about the mess we call our foreign policy.

Are these issues salient? Of course they are. Were either Bush or Gore going to raise them? Hell, no!

In truth, the whole issue of aggressiveness in the presidential debates is a function of the continuing feminization of our culture, particularly as it pertains to white males. Has any one in the media ever accused Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton of being too aggressive, no matter how outrageous their statements might be?

How about Hillary?

Question, which is more aggressive:

A) Approaching a candidate to request they sign a document to limit the use of soft money to finance campaign ads, as Rep. Lazio did during his first debate with Mrs. Clinton, or

B) Managing an attempted federal take over the healthcare industry?

As far as I'm concerned, the debates were not aggressive enough. Put all of the candidates out there, take the gloves off and let them mix it up. Let's let the ideas and policy proposals stand for themselves. If that's too aggressive for some people, then they have no business in the polling booth on Election Day.

October 21, 2000

Jef Allen is a technology professional in Georgia. As a reformed Yankee, who has lived in the South for roughly twenty years, he has very little tolerance for Northern sanctimony, or the erosion of individual liberty.