I was never really into politics until I got to college, where my spiritual and moral beliefs started to take shape as I learned more about the world and my place in it. As a traditional Catholic with strong pro-life beliefs, I was attracted to the Republican Party, and the 2000 election took on utmost importance in my life.
I remember watching the returns on Election Night, and the overwhelming sense of disappointment I felt when the cable news networks pronounced Al Gore as the winner in Florida. Then the elation I felt later that night when they reversed the call and gave the win to George W. Bush. Of course, even later that night they reversed the call again, saying it was too close to call. You know what happened next, as the recounts and court fights stretched into weeks and we all just wanted it to be over. I was firmly convinced Bush had won and I was really starting to hate Al Gore and his supporters for not conceding and for drawing the whole thing out.
Of course, Bush was eventually named the president, but some people could never let it go and never missed an opportunity to question his legitimacy. Then the war in Iraq started, and as time went on it started to become more and more unpopular, with widespread protests and criticism. But for many, it went way beyond simple criticism. Bush was an utter moron, many said. Or he and Vice President Dick Cheney were part of a diabolical scheme to help their friends in the oil industry. They were actually behind the Sept. 11 attacks. They lied. They should be immediately impeached.
At first, I would argue with these people, trying to point out how absurd many of these charges were, but arguing did no good because these people were just unreasonable. They knew how things were and there was nothing you could do to change their mind. It's not that I didn't think Bush had his faults, because I did, but these arguments were so over the top it just became ridiculous. Eventually I just became turned off by the whole situation and started to tune out of politics.
Then came Obama's presidency. I didn't vote for him, but seeing how happy everyone seemed to be on election night, I thought this would be a good thing for the country. Give him a chance to try out his ideas and see if he could fix some of these problems in the country.
But instead, politican debate is dominated by the same irrational distractions, only coming from the other side. People were saying Obama is a secret Muslim who wants to destroy the country. He wasn't even born here and isn't really president. He is a socialist/communist and all his communist friends are trying to take over everything and ruin the country. He's going to take everyone's guns. It's the same crazy ranting that has little connection with reality, but millions of people are caught up in it.
I consider myself middle of the road politically, and I am completely turned off by the country's political climate. While some are foaming at the mouth over the encroaching socialist tide, I just can't make myself care anymore. These ideas seem so divorced from reality that they make the whole process ridiculous. I used to love talking politics, but it's harder and harder to do that now and keep it on an even keel.
Time magazine had a cover story this week on Glenn Beck and the rise of the angry voter. Is this the way American politics are destined to work from now on, with one side firmly convinced the other is the embodiment of evil on earth that must be stopped at all costs? Can we ever go back to the days when there was bipartisan cooperation on serious legislation and the two major parties disagreed but still respected one another at the end of the day? Does this kind of angry, fearful debate make you take more interest in the political process, or turn you off, as it does me?