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The Problem With Politics
After President Obama nominated Hispanic Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the following headlines appeared in newspapers and websites across the country:
“Speeches Show Judge’s Steady Focus on Diversity and Struggle” (New York Times)
“Obama Hails Judge as ‘Inspiring’ ” (New York Times)
“Women in the News-Sotomayor, a Trailblazer and a Dreamer” (New York Times)
“Let’s Not Ignore Sotomayor’s Negative View of the Constitution” (Rush Limbaugh)
“Nobody Denies Sotomayor Will Bring Element of Racism to Court” (Rush Limbaugh)
What should I believe? Who is giving me correct information? What is actually happening? These are all questions people ask themselves when faced with confusing, contradicting information. And who is giving us this information? Politicians, political parties, the media, our government. Often, it is loyalty to political parties or self that causes politicians and other partisans to overlook their duty: to represent the public, also providing them with objective information essential to knowledgeable decision-making.
There are two main political parties, Democrats and Republicans, who have opposing views. Sotomayor, a judge with mainly liberal beliefs, supports causes combated by conservatives. Especially in Sotomayor’s case, conservatives have been trying to hurt her image, and the Democrats’, to promote their cause. Conservative publications blared critical headlines and commentators like Rush Limbaugh called her a “horrible pick” and “an antithesis of a judge” (Rush Limbaugh). They focused on the negative, using quotes from years ago to call her ‘racist’. If you were watching Fox News, reading the National Review, or following Sean Hannity, President Obama’s justice pick would anger, confuse, or disgust you.
On the other hand, open up a liberal news resource and you’ll read about a heroic figure that rose from her poverty stricken childhood to graduate from an Ivy League university and, now, become a Supreme Court justice, a rags to riches story, the summation of the American dream. You will come to know a just woman who focuses on diversity and empathy.
Polarizing. These two views are so confusing, so opposite, that they impede rational thinking. Strong emotions get in the way of objectivity, while opinionated, biased information is conveyed instead. The result: a nation that does not know what is actually going on, but only the slanted interpretations of those faithful to certain political parties, a nation that does not have the information to make its own decisions.
Having two convincing, opposite opinions thrown at you is confusing, but that’s not all. In many cases, politicians do not use important issues, but minor ones that rile people up, to either gain public favor or cause criticism for their opponent. Often used in elections, both parties use this strategy. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain used the argument that because Obama had relations with domestic terrorist William Ayers, he would not choose good associates as president. He also argued that Ayers’s radical views had had an effect on Obama and his views. On the contrary, Ayers had committed crimes when Obama was eight. Obama’s ‘relationship’ with Ayers consisted of them working on an education project for a short period of time; at this time, Ayers was a college professor. Their only other connection was that they lived in the same street neighborhood. Arguments such as these are weak but, unfortunately, effective. Although usually used to make a foe look bad, these petty claims can also be used to justify anger or aggressive opposition. The problem with these arguments? They draw the public’s attention away from important issues like credentials or values. They will not matter if the person gets into office. They further confuse the public, giving them information that, although believable at first, ultimately doesn’t matter or make sense.
Furthermore, the media plays a major role in sharing biased information to the public. Newspapers, news channels, commentators etc. are often traditionally conservative or liberal. Some examples of the conservative media are Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Mike Savage, and The National Review; some examples of the liberal media are The Advocate, The New York Times, MSNBC, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and The Nation. Journalism is supposed to be based on objectivity, right? How can this be if news outlets give Americans information that has been slanted according to their views? Americans need to hear straight facts in order to form conclusions of their own.
In many cases, news outlets push the reader to form a certain opinion. For example, President Obama made a speech in Cairo. One headline screamed “President Obama’s Cairo Speech: Outrageous, Absurd, Embarrassing” (Rush Limbaugh); while another stated “Obama Tries Evenhanded Approach in Middle East”, describing President Obama’s stance in his speech as “an extraordinary role for a U.S. president”(MSNBC), These articles tell you what to think, not what information to use to decide what to think.
Ultimately, party loyalists need to focus less on their wants, values, and views and more on that of the public, providing them with objective information necessary to making choices and forming opinions. We citizens have a responsibility, too: to vote responsible officials into office. But how will we vote these officials into office if we do not receive unbiased and important information about them?
Limbaugh, Rush. "GOP Must Go to Mat on Sotomayor to Tell Real Story of Barack
Obama." The Rush Limbaugh Show. 26 May 2009. Premiere Radio Networks. 30
Limbaugh, Rush. "Monday's Show." The Rush Limbaugh Show. 8 June 2009. Premiere
Radio Networks. 9 June 2009
Limbaugh, Rush. "President Obama's Cairo Speech: Outrageous, Absurd, Embarrassing."
The Rush Limbaugh Show. 4 June 2009. Premiere Radio Networks. 5 June
"Obama tries evenhanded approach in Mideast." MSNBC. 5 June 2009. 5 June 2009
Search. 1 June 2009
Shane, Scott. "Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths." Politics. 3 Oct.
2008. The New York Times. 3 June 2009
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