Opinion: Why are so many of us tuning out politics? Because politicians and the public alike are equating every squabble with civilizational collapse.
Jon Gabriel | opinion contributor
You might have missed it, but July 1 was one of the darkest days in history. On that fateful Thursday, America endured an “affront to our democracy” and a “sustained attack on voting rights” that will usher in “a new generation of Jim Crow laws.”
I didn’t notice the apocalyptic event as it happened – I was vacationing in the Colorado Rockies – but was relieved to find life proceeding normally upon my return.
So, what horror was inflicted upon the United States that day? The Supreme Court upheld two Arizona voting laws in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee in a 6–3 decision.
The two laws, similar to laws used in several other states, ban counting provisional ballots if they are cast in the wrong precinct and only permit certain persons to handle another person’s completed mail-in ballot.
No wonder normal people tune out politics
Not exactly Pearl Harbor 2.0, but that didn’t stop politicians from cranking up the hysteria.
“If you believe in open and fair democracy and the principle of one person, one vote,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “today is one of the darkest days in all of the Supreme Court’s history.”
Step aside, Dred Scott and Korematsu, Chuck needs fresh copy for his fundraising emails.
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The significance of Schumer’s comment wasn’t the hyperbole but how common it is in our political environment. Whenever anything upsets a politician it must be labeled “the end of democracy,” “the death of the republic” or “our darkest day.”
I guess “you win some, you lose some” doesn’t generate internet hits, but equating every squabble with civilizational collapse is bound to make normal Americans tune out politics altogether.
If everything is a crisis, nothing is
If everything is a crisis, nothing is. We have a climate crisis vs. an energy crisis, a border crisis vs. a refugee crisis, a housing crisis vs. a homelessness crisis. And that’s just the tip of the crisis-berg; there are hundreds more emergencies just below the surface.
This is the hysterical style of American politics. Rational compromise and reasonable debate aren’t even considered, since no one in D.C. has an incentive to calm the waters. If you want high ratings and big fundraising numbers, stoking panic is the easiest play.
The public responds accordingly, if social media and comment sections are any guide. Every Democrat must be a commie, every Republican a fascist, and all are traitors.
If a moderate supports charter schools on Facebook, she’s likely to be called a right-wing, racist stooge bent on the annihilation of K-12 education. If she wants gas taxes raised a nickel to fix infrastructure, she’s a depraved socialist turning the America into Venezuela. (Oh, and both sides will call her ugly.)
‘Darkest day’? Hardly. You win some, you lose some
Let me translate those slurs into what they really mean: “I disagree.” But how many “likes” will that get?
I’m inured to the social media insult brigade since I expect people to disagree with me. When people spew profanities about my maternal lineage, I know that they’re merely registering dissent but can’t figure out how to say, “I disagree.” (Then, I mute them.)
Growing up in a family that ranged from far-left to far-right, I accept that most people want what’s best for the country though they differ on the means and ends. The person across from me at the dinner table isn’t a traitor for voting for one party instead of the other. Neither is the complete stranger using an anime character as a profile pic.
No, Senator Schumer, the Brnovich decision didn’t transform July 1 into a day that will live in infamy. To my mind, it was a welcome, commonsense ruling that will help secure Arizona’s vote. And the next decision I don’t like won’t cause the darkest day in history.
You win some, you lose some.