Inspection- The Base Based Politics of Ugly

by Ken Carman

 Old Forge, NY, library… I sit type… type… typing… this column, and then a gentleman strikes up a conversation with me: apparently one of our more extroverted neighborhood conspiracy theorists. Inspection We dive deep into Rothschild conspiracies, well… he does. I offer patience and a listening ear. Contradiction will get me nowhere. According to him if that… curse word deleted… Hillary… is elected the Rothschilds will rule the country, eventually the world. I’ve heard all this before: the Bilderberg conspiracy, how Obama/Bush will never leave office and become dictator for life, Birther claims and that alien cattle anal probes are actually the work of creatures from planet Ericcartman…
 Conspiracy theories always seem to flare up election time.
 I only contradict him when; promising to send me his book for review before publication, he asks…

  “You’re not a DEMOCRAT, ARE YOU????”

  He spits out “Democrat” as if it’s an infected, rotted, tooth.

 ”Well, you’d probably consider me left of center.”

 Before that he had asked me to review 800 pages of what I suspect would have been some version of publishing slush pile hell. Oh, golly, gee, now I guess this will be another missed opportunity? So sad.
 In comparison, that was a very civil conversation, unlike some during elections these days. Unlike the random ranter who just has to tell me; a stranger, how much he hates whomever, whatever. How about the Facebook poster who was so determined to convince me provisional ballots ARE counted, but only after it gets close, who insists on adding personal insults with his every comment? Does that make him think I’ll change my mind? Or his insistence I should just bow down to his vast superior wealth of knowledge will alter my opinion while he tags it with the odd claim I don’t even know basic math?
 Claiming they only, and always, count provisional ballots if the election is close isn’t “basic math.” It’s a basic contradiction of the whole premise behind provisional ballots: not letting people vote because there’s something supposedly questionable about their claim to that right. If the claim is they actually don’t have that right, saying you might count it anyway is, basically, a placebo statement meant to make the potential voter go away, but go away “nicely.”
 And who gets to decide when, and if, it’s “close enough?” What standards are used? Is there any attempt to make that a bipartisan decision? No partisanship involved in the initial decision?
 In response to all these challenges his basic answer was some variant on…

 ”I know better that you, you stupidhead idiot, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.”

 Of course I did try to tell him none of his comments proved his claim, or even mention I have worked at polls and with election folks too: and my take away was quite different. But, as always, it did make me think about how we got to this point, where people think that insult and claims: no proof, should convince anyone.
 Example: I mean, who the hell would be convinced by someone who uses the phrases “Crooked, cooked Hillary” over and over? Or for that matter constantly calling Trump a Nazi, or a narcissist?
 Apparently, a hell of a lot of people.
 Making claims then insisting that makes them facts seems the main method of discussion and debate these days. Oh, then followed up by some version of “idiot,” as if that does anything but reflect poorly on the points being made.
 It’s really no surprise. Our national discourse has been heading this way a long time. Once radio talk shows became the rage, taking over AM, increasingly using a kind of format we’d all recognize as insult-based, where we are today seems a logical progression. Did I type “logical?” Well, the progression is, content and concept… not so much.
 Another reason is the over reliance on the basest of base based politics. All that matters is serving your base. But politicians should represent all their constituents. Dictators, kings, emperors, despots… well, if they represent a good size base: by no means a “majority,” they can usually stay in power. But that’s not true representation in any sense of being a representative of a state, a county, a parish, a nation.
 And no way in hell is any of this good for our nation.
 It’s become surreal. As one republican said, if the parent of a soldier gets up at the other convention and challenges your candidate due to the loss of that son or daughter during war; civility is the best answer. Making insulting insinuations about the nature of his wife and their marriage, their religion, is not. It’s as simple as that. This is no “both parties do this” scenario. Yes, both parties use the unfair tactic of pulling at the nation’s heart strings in a way to challenge the other side’s candidate. And I suppose if Mr. Trump had simply challenged content without personal insult combined with insinuation I might have never typed what I’m typing now.
 But he can’t resist. It’s pretty much all he has when responding to those who challenge him.
 When did we pass the point where too many damn folks shrug at mocking those whose conditions make them stutter, have odd facial expressions and movements? When did we reach the point when lying about doing that doesn’t matter? This is different compared to claiming to land under fire in a war zone where, yes, there was lots of “firing” going on… elsewhere. As humans we tend to embellish and remember things wrong. But to outright try to humiliate a grieving father or mother for political purposes… that’s beyond non-presidential behavior. That’s something we punish misbehaving children for.
 Was it when it became acceptable for Bill O’Reilly to constantly interrupt, talk over and call people pinheads? Was it when Limbaugh spent days basically calling Ms. Fluke a whore, a slut and worse? Maybe it was Michael Moore getting himself invited to Heston’s place and rudely wandering around private property to get his “story” that helped start us down the path of outright rudeness? I only chose that to show I am not claiming “only one side does it,” though since the right is king of talk these days and aggressive rhetoric, and has been for a while, they certainly have helped lead the charge into this horrific abyss.
 We need to decide as a nation if bullying people is proper, if the victim of bullying is always to blame: or even if that matters. We desperately need to get out of this rhetorical pit from hell we’ve dug so deeply.
 There’s something desperately wrong with a portion of the electorate, and I believe it has to do with how we view each other. Those who disagree are perceived as the enemy, to be mercilessly defeated, humiliated, conquered, destroyed.
 Our politics of base based ugly is truly reaching out towards 1930s Germany-like territory where there was enough hate driven politics to create one of the worst societies ever to exist in modern times. And there are too many people out there who would have little problem with that kind of leader ruling a nation.

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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