Looking Left and Right: Is This Right? # 8 (A Different Middle)

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Our identities are bound up with our social relationships and affiliations – with our families, communities, alma maters, teams, churches, political parties. Our groups. In this context, an attack on one’s group, or on some view with which the group is associated, can effectively operate like an attack on the self. Our political, ideological, partisan, and religious convictions – because they are deeply held enough to comprise core parts of our personal identities, and because they link us to the groups that bulwark those identities and give us meaning – can be key drivers of motivated reasoning. They can make us virtually impervious to facts, logic, and reason. [1]

[NOTE] In the “Is This Right?” series*, I’ll be offering information, observations, examples, and comments about our Left versus Right conflicts and the problems associated with (non) discussions based on completely different views of facts and reality. The absence of common ground from which to frame discussions and craft appropriate adaptive strategies and plans is, needless to say, a bit of a problem.

The venomous and/or irrelevant statements from too many are not helping. Finding our way around that challenge is a societal imperative. How we get there is another issue….

{* Refer to the “Is This Right?Tag for other posts in this series.}

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What follows are comments, unedited, from the New York Times side of the “debate” about the recent shutdown and debt-ceiling fiascoes. [The Times’s op-ed is serving as one half of the subject matter of this series; the other: a Wall Street Journal op-ed.]

[NOTE: I will identify the authors of each statement by their initials only. Any comments I make will be in italics, although aside from a brief intro’, I’d prefer letting the tone and content—in contrast to the prior post in this Series, which featured a sampling of comments from WSJ readers on the same topic—speak for themselves. Of course, one should reasonable expect that most comments from the NYT will be more Left-leaning….]

 

THE GLARING CONTRAST

 

The only observation I will make is that the overwhelming majority of comments offered by both the many progressives and the occasional conservative were simply observations and opinions. Even disagreements were, in most instances, fairly civil, and certainly much more so than was evidenced in the comments from readers of the WSJ piece.

There were occasional insults by those from the Left (e.g from RH: “Ignorance and stupidity and pride are the hallmarks of the republican house”), but in reviewing nearly 900 comments, I found no more than a dozen or so similar in tone. Likewise, (duly noting that probably less than 20% of the comments came from the Right), there were the occasional one-sided, irrelevant, and somewhat fact-free party-line observations from a conservative such as the following:

[YIAR] Obama’s intransigence is damaging the nation.
He needs to listen to the representatives of We The People.
Obama cannot rely on Putin to provide a silver bullet on the debt crisis

[S] The Comments here continue the pattern of Republican-hating rhetoric based on false assumptions and ascription of foul motives. Perhaps a step back is in order. The nation is bankrupt. Jobs have been forever lost. The middle class is broke. Prices are rising, while salaries are declining. The Fed keeps the bubble going with borrowed money we can never repay. Billions are squandered on fraud, waste, negligence, and, lest we forget, perpetual war. And the joke is that you all blame Republicans for this. All Republicans want is an end to the illusions we are living under. We are NOT doing well. Even the unions are screaming about Obamacare. It’s got to stop. Obama can’t keep borrowing his way to false prosperity. When will you realize this king has no clothes? Don’t blame Republicans for sounding the alarms. Blame yourselves. You voted for him, and we are all reaping the horrendous consequences of this Socialist Democrat

Worth noting the tone and content of the first response to the comment above:

[JB] Dear S_
1. Even if everything you say were true, that would not detract from the key point: it is perhaps illegal, probably immoral, and certainly greatly harmful to hold up the budget resolution or the debt ceiling because of opposition to an exisiting law.
2. My fellow Socialist Democrats and I eagerly await your list of all the governmental benefits that you get now, or will get in the future, and that you are forswearing tomorrow. Besides the ridiculously obvious one (Obamacare) and the merely obvious ones (e.g., Social Security, insurance on your bank accounts, interstate highways), please be sure to include all the others, such as the health benefits of food research provided by USDA, the mortgage interest deduction on your house, reduced interest rates on your kids’ college loans, and so on. And don’t come back at us with ‘I paid taxes for all that!’. I’ll pay your taxes next year and you give up the programs. You folks who are so willing to torpedo (literally as well as figuratively) other people’s lives need to put your money where your mouths are.
~ A Bleeding-Hearted Socialist Tree-Hugging Pinko Government-Bureaucrat Ex-Hippie Peacenik Commie Member of the 47% and the 99%, and Proud of It.

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NOTING THE DIFFERENCES

 

This first comment to the NYT op-ed set the tone for most of the comments:

[M.K] If the GOP insists on an economic civil war, then I sincerely hope President Obama gives it to them. The notion that a faction within a party that controls only one house of Congress — and that only by virtue of gerrymandering — has a right to dictate policy or legislation, when it hasn’t been able to be sufficiently successful at the polls to enable it to pass its agenda through legitimate legislative means, by repeatedly engaging in blackmail and extortion, MUST be stopped, whatever the cost. Republicans seem to be under the very mistaken idea that elections only have consequences when Republicans prevail, and that they, and they alone, are entitled to govern. That is in direct conflict with the system of government our founders created. And no, the claim that “both sides have engaged in this sort of thing” is not valid. Sure, both parties have, in the past, engaged in targeted resistance to particular pieces of legislation, or to a particular nominee. But at no other point in this country’s history has an opposition party engaged in such total, across-the-board obstruction, nor tried to force its agenda by extorting the country with the threat of deliberately wrecking the nation’s economy if they didn’t get their way. That dubious distinction goes solely to today’s Republican Party. It is nothing less than economic terrorism, and the President should deal with it the way the U.S. government officially deals with terrorists of any kind: by refusing to negotiate.

This was the first of the earliest comments which seemed to have clearly been offered by a conservative:

[K. M.] Someone ought to drop off a dictionary at the offices of the New York Time Editorial Board. Anarchy means ‘absence of government.’ The IMF audited the USA and recently determined that the US is bankrupt. And badly.
If the editorial board of the NYT had any sense, they would realize that what the ‘Radicals’ in the GOP want to do is find a way out of the increasingly wreck less spending situation.
It’s as if the democrats never left the 1969s. In the last 20 years, 40 trillion dollars have been moved out of the real economy into a breakaway economy that is off the books. Look up Catherine Austin Fitts on YouTube.
The problem is that all the liabilities have been left on the regular, e.g. Our set of books, and there is no money.
Money doesn’t disappear, it shows up somewhere else. That’s the fundamental rule of accounting.
Let’s stop fighting over the ‘Broken Meats’ of our dead economy and start asking why

A little bit of left-wing sarcasm, followed by exasperation:

[cbl] A second planned federal shutdown, about the 12th stop-gap continuing resolution in lieu of a budget, a second potential default on the debt, a jobs-free economic recovery, threatened war with Syria, a nutcase mass murderer at a naval base one mile from Capitol Hill and the entire Republican Party doubling down on stupid.
I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

[B] You have an economic system that favors 1% of your population. And a political system that allows members of that favored 1% to buy political influence. Now you have a party that says either more indulgence for the wealthy or ‘Chaos’. I cannot for the life of me understand your surprise. You have willed the means but don’t like the end. Normally its the other way around. Perhaps this is what makes you exceptional?

[JB] Regardless of the merits of the Republican demands, everyone should recognize that using recurring, essential budget actions as leverage for policies a party cannot otherwise pass in Congress is a recipe for endless crisis. If this works, and given the insatiable appetite of Republican budget hawks, we will see cycles of extortion for years to come. 
Perhaps Republicans should worry that Democrats will resort to the same tactics if conservatives ever control the Senate and White House, although I think we all understand that liberals could never be so vicious. For the sake of the Constitution, Obama must not respond to this threat

[B W] ‘a faction … has a right to dictate policy or legislation [is] blackmail and extortion…’
I think you have it wrong. The House Majority is not dictating policy, it is objecting to policy and withholding approval for funding, which is legal and necessary to kill the bad law.
Is it extortion? On the contrary, all legislation can only continue so long as it enjoys majority support, which this legislation no longer does. It would be extortion to force the majority to accept it against their will, to say, in effect, ‘Nice gov’t you got here. Shame if it all had to be stopped just because you won’t take on my friend Obamacare. I know you hate it, but either pay him or I’ll shut down your operation.’ That’s the extortion.

Responding to that comment was the same writer who offered the tone-setter above:

[MK] You might have a valid point if Republicans were only refusing to fund the ACA. But that is not what is going on here. Republicans are threatening to refuse to fund the government’s already ongoing operations and already-incurred debt obligations, which will result in further damage to an economy in the midst of an anemic recovery. That most certainly IS extortion

A more forceful opinion about Republican tactics:

[CHF] As we confront the plans of the GOP/TP to threaten the U.S. economy and the critically vital people services of the federal government, we must ask what motivates this purposeful destructiveness? They certainly know how hurtful these actions would be to their own American people, and to the economic standing of the nation. Not even the most powerful, hostile foreign actor could begin to hurt the United States as critically are these extremists are prepared to do. From an objective perspective, their plans are sheer lunacy. Yet they consistently pursue their ruinous brinkmanship year after year. They are deliberately and consciously holding most of the population hostage to their extremism. The question is, do they ever feel any sense of shame at what they are inflicting on their fellow Americans? Do they really believe that the enormous pain they will bring to millions of men, women, and children is justified? How is it justified, and for what?

And two stronger observations about the state of affairs in general:

[P R C] After 75 years of deluding myself that most Americans share similar visions I conclude that we are divided between under developed children and avaricious money changers who see the advantage to themselves of letting the stupid and ignorant indulge their childish tantrums. The vision of reasonably educated Americans bridging gaps between North and South, religious fanatics and modern adults is totally shattered. We are worse that a nation of idiots.

[M] I am just stunned by degree of the Times’ open and blatant partisanship, and inability to engage in anything even resembling objective journalism. It’s truly appalling. Both sides are being equally irresponsible and ignoring the needs of the country in order to engage in petty politics. Much as I disagree with and despise the Republicans, I fail to see how their refusal to negotiate or compromise is any different from Obama’s open refusal to negotiate or compromise. That’s what you should be reporting instead of simply carrying the Democrats’ water. Sad to see how much a once proud paper has degenerated

 

FINALLY, SOME CONFLICT

 

After reading approximately 300 comments, this was the first “contentious” exchange:

[LM] Hard to tell which is worse: the nihilistic Republican lunatics in Congress or the irresponsible numbskulls who vote for them. Both need extreme negation at the ballot box in 2014.

[P] Don’t forget gerrymandering.

[JK] OK, here’s a compromise – Republicans get to keep their sequester cuts, Democrats get to keep Obamacare – the logic being both have essentially been in effect for some time and we the people have adapted accordingly. So pass the CR, raise the debt ceiling and let’s move on. Stop playing with our lives, Congress! Enough is enough!

[CW] The Republicans are following the road to ruin, which i wouldn’t mind so much if they weren’t taking the country with them.

[A] I keep hearing the words ‘government shutdown’ but I only ever hear Democrats saying it.

[AE] That’s the democrats’ version of a compromise.


[ER] Then you’re not paying attention: I’ve heard Cruz and Boehner use those two words frequently and publicly in the last few weeks.


[J] The Republican party reports to Limbaugh. Their goal is clearly to subvert the Obama administration, and are willing to destroy faith in the United States government in order to do it. This is open sedition in the House of Representatives.

[AB] The word ‘Republican’ is not synonymous with the term ‘enemy of the state.’ Consider instead, ‘the loyal opposition.’ The terms ‘anarchy,’ ‘chaotic state,’ ‘radical agenda,’ and ‘extremist’ add nothing to the dialogue. Just a few linguistic tips to brighten the day.

[ER] The ‘loyal opposition’ only deserves the term if it is ‘loyal’ to the people they represent. This is a few right wing nutjobs that the leaders of their own party are too frightened of too oppose. They are getting the labels that appeasers of tyrants deserve.


[CW] It isn’t centrist republicans that are the issue. It is the handful on the extreme far right who truly do deserve those descriptors. Read their words, follow their actions, and try to come up with any other way to describe them

Not exactly the same kind of rock ’em-sock ’em personal disagreements more frequently evident in the WSJ piece.

Completely unscientific to be sure, and feel free to draw whatever conclusions you may wish, but there are different conversations being carried on. A lesson?

How do we start having better and more productive conversations about what really matters?

Final post of this series
Look for the final posts of the other current series tomorrow and Friday
A new Tuesday series will begin on January 7

Enjoy the holidays!

~ My Photo: Rockport, MA – 05.16.11

 

  ^ Watch for some new features debuting soon at this website:

* THE MIDDLE AGE FOLLIES

This new column begins on February 3, 2014. It’s a slightly skewed look at life for those of us on the north side of 50.

* THE TRETIAK AGENDA

A political thriller filled with unexpected plot twists and drawn from real world historical events, this eBook is scheduled for Publication on January 28, 2014. I’ll begin posting excerpts on January 6th. A few teasers will appear between December 16th and December 31st

* LIFE WILL ANSWER

(The inspiration for the other blog at this website). This eBook is scheduled for Publication on February 12, 2014. 
I’ll begin posting excerpts on January 15th. A few teasers will appear beginning right after Christmas

 

I’m a writer Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows
by sharing observations about the ideologies
which motivate our political, economic, and cultural discussions.

Be the change you want in the world – Gandhi

This blog is offered to encourage more enlightened public discourse—by sharing observations about the ideologies which motivate our political, economic, and cultural debates. The simple hope: shedding light on current “strategies” will prompt more of us to realize a different approach is at least worth considering … assuming a better future is worth pursuing. (It is!)

The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything – Albert Einstein

Sources:

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/inside-the-political-brain/256483/; Inside the Political Brain by Chris Mooney – 05.01.12