Last night was a double treat for me: I dodged the torturous bedtime ritual and attended a smart debate about politics. (Afterwards, I was so covetous of my freedom that I skipped down 5th Avenue like an escaped convict, unsure of what to do next.)
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn of my interest in the theme of the debate:
As the election season approaches, we take a look at the current political climate. How might bipartisanship find opportunities to blossom? And where do the extremes of both Democrats and Republicans fit?
The three participants were quite articulate and the exchanges were civil. I’ll highlight one or two, as well as a few notable soundbites.
The extremes empower each other…they feed off each other.
And like Stewart, Avlon also said that, “We give the extremes on our sides a pass.”
Peter Beinart, who appeared glum throughout and barely looked at his two fellow participants the entire evening, rejected the “equivalency” implicit in the both-sides-are-at-fault argument. (Beinart otherwise said a lot of smart things, but his body english screamed, I’d rather not be here, sitting next to these two guys.)
Avlon, for his part, was insightful and exuberant, sometimes too much so, as he couldn’t help nodding or shaking his head vigorously when others were talking. I found that mildly distracting. But most of my notes are filled with his quips, such as his observation that closed party primaries (where the activist, most extreme wing of a party is pandered to) and gerrymandering of congressional districts are the “fundamental drivers of polarization. They distort our politics.”
Oddly, none of the participants talked much about the culture wars (abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc) that continually stoke the polarization in U.S. politics. They chose instead to focus on the media’s role and the structural faults in the political system.
They also seemed quite certain of everything they said, an attitude that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to political flexibility.
Bishop Hill has gathered some initial reaction from across the spectrum.
It’ll be another grand merry go round, courtesy of the IPCC.