Martin: Scary Politics

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(HOST) Commentator Mike Martin says he’s starting to get "spooked" by all the negative rhetoric of this election season.

(MARTIN) Politics is a rough business, but the climate of fear is so palpable this election season, it’s as if Halloween came early this year. Fear and smear seem to dominate our political campaigns, and the news and blogs are filled with bogeymen. The ranks of the radical militia are growing, and way too many Americans are afraid their own President is the Anti-Christ, a foreigner, or, even worse, a socialist.

Of course, we Vermonters aren’t as afraid of socialists as some people, ever since Burlington elected one Mayor back in 1981. That was back during the Cold War when folks were still afraid of the communists, back before China was so capitalistic, and before the Russian oligarchs bought yachts and French paintings. Back then, people were afraid of socialists, but as it turns out, Mayor Bernie Sanders wasn’t scary at all; he just supported affordable housing and revitalized Burlington’s downtown.

A few months after Bernie Sanders was elected mayor, the socialist François Mitterand became President of France. He led the first leftist government in the post-war era, and at first, some people were afraid. Our President Reagan didn’t like him and the franc fell in value, but Mitterand was reelected and served as President for 14 years. In the end, the French wound up with free health care, free day care, and free university, just like Europe’s other social democracies enjoy today.

So despite what some may say nowadays, socialism just isn’t as scary as it used to be. Now that Senator Sanders has served the Congress loyally for the past 20 years, maybe the whole issue of scary ideological labels is an outdated way of thinking. It’s just that you’d never know it by the scare tactics in American politics today.

But perhaps the worst part of all the fear and loathing is that it’s keeping us from the real issues at hand. We need a rational, cool-headed discussion of how we’re going to fix some of our problems, not more fear-mongering and name-calling.

And when you think about it, once you get past all of the labels, we actually share the same values across party lines. It doesn’t matter if you’re from a blue state or a red state, if you’re a liberal or a Tea-Partier, you probably share quite a few core values with your fellow citizens. After all, who doesn’t want help for the working & middle classes, a healthy business climate, good public services, freedom of religion, free speech, and a helping hand for the elderly, homeless, and hungry?  

Nearly all Americans want these things for our country, we just don’t agree on how to do it. The devil’s in the details, of course, but demonizing each other won’t get us anywhere, and it’s good to remember that we’re in this democracy together.

So this election season, we should probably leave the witch-hunts and bogeymen to the trick-or-treaters. We don’t need any more fear and anger. We need to focus on the issues – and go support our democracy at the polls.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Mike Martin at VPR-dot-net.

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