What Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert show us about America's true political center
Disagreement isn't the problem. How we disagree, is.
The true center of American politics isn’t found where most of us agree. We fiercely disagree. That’s not a problem. Democracy assumes disagreement.Skip to next paragraph
Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
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The true center is about how we resolve those disagreements. Most of us believe we should work them out respectfully.
We don’t believe in winning political arguments through bullying, name-calling, lying, intimidating, or using violence.
In other words, the political center isn’t about what we decide It’s about how we decide. A central tenet of American democracy is a commitment vigorous debate, done honestly and civilly.
That’s why some of what we’ve been witnessing recently is troubling.
Consider the foot-stomping incident in Kentucky by Rand Paul supporters, just outside a Senate debate. Or Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller’s security detail handcuffing a reporter from a liberal-leaning website.
Consider last year’s congressional town hall meetings where members of Congress were shouted down, a Tampa town hall meeting turned violent, and gunshots were fired at Democratic campaign headquarters in Arizona.
Consider the outright lies about “death panels,” “government takeovers,” and the President’s nationality.
Consider Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst against the President on the House floor.
And the vitriol emanating at all hours from rage radio, yell television, and Fox News – against immigrants, intellectuals, “coastal elites,” gays, and the President.
We’re better than this.
This is not respectful disagreement. It’s thuggery. It has no legitimate role in a democracy. And most Americans are fed up with it.
Sadly, we needed two comedians to remind us.
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