Caricature-defying quotes: Rachel Maddow

“Giant incredible rocket ships have a way of rendering politics meaningless, just as close proximity to scientific glory is a really good cure for cynicism, world weariness or being jaded about what human beings can accomplish.” — Rachel Maddow

(One of our theories here at The Village Square is that if we actually knew each other beyond the cut and paste quotes that uber-partisans regularly feed us, we’d like each other a little more. So please help me keep an eye out for people who’ve been – well, uh… divided — by the gaping partisan divide doing something intensely, decently human that you can’t help but kind of like…)

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Mark Halperin on extreme partisanship

“If he repelled a Martian invasion tomorrow, I’m not sure he’d get to 65%.” –referring to the tiny bounce in the polls that President Obama got after Osama bin Laden was killed

It is worth noting that George Bush Sr. got to 90% approval after the Gulf War & there was probably more ambivalence among Americans about whether that was a good thing than whether killing Bin Laden was. Perhaps a clear measure of how divided and dysfunctional our politics have grown since?

Leading & Misleading

From Glenn W. Smith’s The Politics of Deceit:

Following Thomas Paine’s advice, we should wake up and understand that our long habit of not thinking our political practices wrong does not make them right. . . Their very structure lends advantage to those who would mislead rather than lead, to those who believe their own power is more important than the health of democracy. . . The dissolution of social mechanisms for working out our differences – and celebrating our similarities and common purposes – has contributed to the deterioration of the public sphere and made possible the ascendancy of the politics of deceit.

Great quote.

From today’s discussion on Meet the Press:

‘My grandad said all the time “Tavis, there are some fights that ain’t worth fighting even if you win. There are other fights you have to fight even if you lose.” And if the proposition we start from is about whether this is going to get me re-elected… there’s no courage, there’s no conviction, there’s no commitment…’ — Tavis Smiley

Too late now.

“Someday, someone will invent a giant talking tube by which you can address the whole nation at once. Surely the police will arrest him, lest the populace become deranged.” –Kierkegaard, 1850

(Thanks, as always, to Lea)

A little Ben Franklin for your Tuesday afternoon.

If emotion drives, let reason hold the reins.
— Poor Richard’s Almanac; May 1749

Going to extremes, round and round and round

I’m reading Going to Extremes: How Like Minds United and Divide by Cass Sunstein. Sunstein has – quite ironically given the nature of Sunstein’s academic work – been charged by such disparate bedfellows as Glenn Beck and Glenn Greenwald with being an extremist. Doubly ironic is that much of the rhetoric against Sunstein by Beck – considered by a whole lot of people to be pretty seriously extreme himself – is pretty well described by Sunstein in his writings. Like this:

“The most important reason for group polarization, and a key to extremism in all its forms, involves the exchange of new information. Group polarization often occurs because people are telling one another what they know, and what they know is skewed in a predictable direction.”

Hard to draw conclusions about who out extremes who in this melee of accusation. Like falling down a rabbit hole.

President Reagan at 100

Today, President Ronald Reagan would have turned 100. From a Village Square perspective it’s interesting to observe the feuding over Reagan’s legacy, mainly because it’s more of a legacy of our time than it is of Reagan’s. Ronald Reagan was clear in his beliefs but he was not a flame-thrower. He invited people to the conversation. So in that spirit, and on this day:

I have always believed that a lot of the troubles in the world would disappear if we were talking to each other instead of about each other. –Ronald Reagan

David Brooks: Tree of Failure

A exceptional, must-read column by David Brooks in today’s New York Times:

“Civility is the natural state for people who know how limited their own individual powers are and know, too, that they need the conversation. They are useless without the conversation…”

Read this editorial HERE (and read it now, it’s smart).

Good guys and bad guys in 21st century America

When I go to back to school night and when I pump my gas and when I buy my groceries, I don’t meet people the likes of which I meet in the cable TV world or the talk radio world. It’s like Saturday morning wrestling: Remember when Vince McMahon was on in Philly and they had the grand wizard of wrestling and they had the good guy and the bad guy and it was all so predictable, you knew what they were going to do and say. That’s what we’ve become. — Michael Smerconish

Tom Brokaw: Bridging the Divide

“…We all got in this together and we’re only going to get out of it working together. You can put blame across the board. A lot of the things that happened happened in the first six years of the George W. Bush administration. We went to war in two countries and didn’t ask anything of the American people. We have an unfunded prescription drug benefit in Medicare that’s now up to 1 trillion dollar deficit. And we didn’t create jobs. And the Democrats were pushing the idea of home ownership on people who were clearly not qualified to sign the papers at the end of the day for what they were buying.” –Tom Brokaw on Morning Joe

Brokaw will be hosting a special on USA Network this Friday at 7 PM called “Bridging the Divide.

Campaign 1800’s: Hermaphrodite raised on hoe-cakes

A footnote: I love this video but they join the “War on Context” with the snarky “try cracking a history book” at the end as – while they are exactly correct that foul things have been said in the name of campaigning through history, they get a Village Square rap on the knuckles for doing some major cherry picking.
First of all, we should note that the Jefferson and Adams campaign was ultimately the first election in human history with a peaceful transition of power from one party/group of people to another… let’s just say given the unique feat they were undertaking, it’s not that hard to imagine that tensions ran high. The standard way to handle it up until then was with bayonettes.   Read all »

Right now our bar for successful political discourse is a bit low

Lawrence O’Donnell on Hardball last week (emphasis added): “I think [Jon Stewart] has an important purpose [in having his rally]… That simple point he makes where he says “I disagree with you but I don’t think you’re Hitler” is a very welcome insertion in the noisy dialogue we have now where there is all this questioning of the motivation of other people labeling this person a monster and that person a monster, and there is so much fighting going on back and forth just by the use of the labels that don’t allow you to listen to what that person is actually saying. So by Jon Stewart saying and oh by the way I don’t think that you’re Hitler is a very important point and if you can get that out of the day, that there is a way to have disagreements with each other without calling each other names, that is a successful day.”