This is what democracy looks like?

In the video below, the guy at the mike falls off message and says that Nevada Republican, Sharon Angle, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, will make herself available for questions.

Oops!

You see, Sharon Angle doesn’t take questions from the press!

Instead, Sharon Angle makes a total mockery of democracy by studiously avoiding questions. Her behavior, aping Sarah Palin, is a grotesque distortion of what people like Thomas Jefferson, 200 years ago, envisioned for our country’s politics. In a democracy, people are supposed to, in running for office, get up on the democratic stage, take questions, engage in debate, and dialogue. They are not supposed to be as difficult to get an audience with as the Wizard of Oz.

What a sick, sick, sick joke. And how depressing it is to see the Sarah Palin model of politics gnawing into the very heart of our democracy, circa 2010.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to This is what democracy looks like?

  1. andrewclunn says:

    It’s just the natural progression of things in a culture where media is there to persuade rather than inform and sound bite gafs are spread at light speed while thorough explanations are never broadcast. Don’t blame the candidates, blame the media that makes a “no questions” strategy not only viable, but necessary.

    • santitafarella says:

      Andrew,

      You’ve identified part of the sickness, but I wouldn’t let the candidates off the hook. There was a time when a candidate had to show some gravitas, some intelligence, some ability to mix it up with people asking difficult questions. But something disturbing happened when Sarah Palin ran for office in 2008: a person obviously stupid, sparcely travelled, ill-read, inarticulate, and unqualified could run anyway, and run entirely behind a public relations bubble. I thought it was a one-off event, but it is now the new normal.

      Your point is taken, though. There is no restraint on either side. No vulnerability. No real attempt at dialogue between American citizens on contending sides. There is only the appearance of such a dialogue. It is all postmodern nihilism. There is no reaching for any ideals about what it might mean to live in a real democracy with real reason, dialogue, vulnerability, and openness among citizens. The Founding Fathers of our Enlighenment-based Republic are referred to in illiterate and cartoonish ways, but not taken seriously. In an electronic media and soundbite age, the high ideals of articulate speech, decorum, dignity, reason, and dialogue in politics that they fought for are not even being attempted. Instead, whatever works to gain power is the game that is being played, and it mostly attracts the worst sorts of people to politics.

      Obama is the closest thing to an Enlightenment philosophe as we have ever had in contemporary office. In his dignity, intelligence, love of books, and self-command, he is in the tradition of Jefferson and Lincoln. I think that he called Americans to some of our highest ideals, and they responded to that in 2008. But because the economy is still struggling, this whole nest of know-nothings is stirring up anti-intellectual resentments, and degrading even further an already degraded media politics.

      Sharon Angle is a representative of that degradation.

      —Santi

      • andrewclunn says:

        I think you may be giving Obama too much credit. I also think this tactic of the PR bubble and misdirection has existed for a lot longer than you think. And The media has never not been shit.

        And on Obama

  2. santitafarella says:

    Andrew:

    Obama, like all contemporary politicians, oversimplifies on the stump, but the very fact that he is capable of more—and sometimes gives that ‘more’—is important. Contra the contempt of Fox News commentators, a good speech matters. Comporting yourself with dignity matters. Trying to dialogue in a vulnerable way with others matters. When these things happen, it means that America has not lost the rational Enlightenment compass of the Founding Fathers entirely.

    If our democracy was functioning in a healthy manner, at minimum our politicians would engage one another in substantive dialogue and open-ended debates, and would, for the very health of democracy itself, subject themselves regularly to unscripted public questions (from the press and citizens). What does it communicate to children, for example, when they see that contemporary politics is characterized by politicians who will not speak?

    In a healthy democracy, politicians would also generate and deliver speeches in keeping with the dignity of the offices to which they aspire. And they would speak, not in soundbites, but in complete and grammatical sentences, and elaborate on their ideas and thought processes. To be a senator, a congress person, or a president should be a sobering responsibility in a democracy. It should entail a commitment to vulnerability, dignity, reason, debate, and dialogue. The problem is that psychological authoritarians and nihilistic lawyers tend to be those most attracted to running for office. People like you and I probably would feel that we simply could not stomach the dishonesty, the oversimplifying, and the agressive demonization of others that a run for contemporary office would entail.

    I wonder what it would mean for a small group of people to run for office determined—regardless of their politics—to put vulnerability, dignity, reason, and dialogue—as opposed to spin and demonization—first.

    —Santi

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