Lindsey Graham is no liberal and I wouldn’t even call him a moderate. The senior senator from South Carolina is an unapologetic Republican true and true. He can go toe-to-toe with a political opponent and stand his conservative ground but even when duking it out with the likes of Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, as he did yesterday on Meet the Press, there seems to underlie the posturing a willingness to find the opportunity to be reasonable.
It was part of the reason I was not surprised when Mr. Graham pointed out during the interview that the health care debate should be on the merits and that name calling was not acceptable. Speaking about President Obama in particular, Senator Graham noted that Mr. Obama is “as American as anyone else,” and that terms like socialism, which means un-American to most, do not apply to the president.
Unfortunately for the GOP and the rest of the country, too many leaders in the Republican party have failed to take advantage of this teachable moment, a point in time where they could lead by example and educate the Tea Party-fringe and other right-wing conservative elements that are either in or lean heavily toward their party.
It is in this failure that the Republicans and Democrats share one common trait; a flaw that has always proved fatal to either party’s ability to produce effective, efficient, and unbiased government. Both parties emphasize vote getting and have this characteristic of political science down to a political art form. The science and mechanisms involved in the posturing are not surprising. The science provides a methodology for garnering the amount of votes necessary to keep or regain control of government. Politics as science provides us with some rules, based on human behavior that should lessen the surprise regarding certain political outcomes.
What provides the shock to the system is the art of politics. Politics is about getting what you want from who you want when you want it. When that dynamic merges with the citizen’s right to voice his opinion on leadership and policy, we get the art of politics. Art is about expression. The expression can be as romantic as town hall meetings in ancient Greece or modern day Vermont. The expression can be as vitriolic, bigoted, and racist as that expressed before, during, and after the vote on the health care bill.
What has been expressed by constituents and their representatives is disheartening and repulsive. What is scarier is its acceptance. At the same time as we walk through this gallery of political perversion and cultural bias, we should remember that the blessings and curses of an open, democratic society means that we are going to hear and see the disheartening and disturbing. What we should not accept, however, is the ignorance.