Posted by: JanF | May 7, 2013

Politics is NOT sports: Please … “stop hurting America”

Okay, sure … “Republicans run amok” can be entertaining, “Republicans acting stupid” makes us feel superior, “Republicans in disarray” can be energizing in that it gives us hope that we can defeat them electorally.

However, it is one thing to point out the flaws and strong points of our political opponents in order to strategize over how to beat them … it is another thing entirely to admire their hatefulness and divisiveness and call one of them the “most talented and fearless Republican I’ve seen in the last 30 years”.

That is what Democratic strategist James Carville called Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on one of the morning talk shows earlier this week. Carville:

“I’ve listened to excerpts of his speech in South Carolina. He touches every button, and this guy has no fear. He just keeps plowing ahead. And he is going to be something to watch.”

The thing that struck me was how excited Carville appeared by this prospect. It is not surprising because he and his wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, both make their living by ratcheting up the rhetoric: anger and mockery and red meat for the base is their stock in trade.

But this “politics as blood sport” reminded me of the exchange between Jon Stewart, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on CNN Crossfire back in 2004:

STEWART: … I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.

BEGALA: We have noticed.

STEWART: And I wanted to — I felt that that wasn’t fair and I should come here and tell you that I don’t — it’s not so much that it’s bad, as it’s hurting America. But I wanted to come here today and say…

STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.

When pundits admire politicians like Ted Cruz, whose only stated goal is to make it impossible to govern, they are hurting America. Because politicians aren’t prizefighters, they aren’t your favorite sports team, they aren’t really even celebrities. They are men and women who we hire to represent us in Washington … people who we want to contribute to the governance of our country as legislators have done for over 200 years.

On Monday, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called Ted Cruz a “schoolyard bully” for his obstruction on the budget, reporters and pundits chortled over Cruz’s reply “I didn’t know this was a schoolyard”.

The things Ted Cruz says and does are not funny. Just like Ron Johnson (R-WI) is not funny and Mike Lee (R-UT) is not funny. They are doing real damage to real people living in our real country. They should not be admired but scorned.

James Carville … and all you pundits … stop hurting America. Use your access to audiences to decry the new breed of politician who is scoring debate points off the misery of the least fortunate in our country. Off the pain of those who lost loved ones in senseless gun violence or fertilizer plants blowing up. Off the despair of people who just want a job and food and shelter for their families.

Once more from Jon Stewart:

“What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.”

Just stop. Help us fix our country by fixing people’s attention on how we can make government work. The country you may save is, quite literally, your own.