Playground Politics Leave No Room for Progress

Welcome to a brand-spankin’-new column written by the most politically disenchanted political-science major you’ll ever meet. I was reminded of my frustration with factional partisan politics just this past Monday morning, when I stepped onto the shuttle and The Rush Limbaugh Show was blasting at full volume, subjecting the entire bus of sleepy students to Limbaugh’s infuriating conservative lunacy. His vein-popping claim of the day was that President Obama is intentionally eliminating jobs. Hey, what president wouldn’t deliberately sabotage his country? I closed my eyes and tried in vain to ignore his sniggering tone. My eyelid twitched spastically. This is not what I needed at 10 a.m., trying to cram the final details of an obscure 18th-century French painter for my impending art-history midterm. My beef with American politics is by no means reserved for the right-wing. I’m equally repulsed by leftist commentary, like that of former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who claimed to “hate the Republicans and everything they stand for” in 2005. Political pundits’ desire to see the world as a black-and-white, hyperpolarized battlefield between the left and the right evokes images of muddy-faced brats pulling each other’s hair on playgrounds — not of educated adults. Interestingly, Dean followed up his declaration by saying that he admires the Republicans’ discipline and organization. And he should. Though I identify with most Democratic ideology, the party is paralyzed by internal bickering and unable to focus on much-needed policy change. Even with a popular Democrat in the White House and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, the party is so mired by internal conflict that it isn’t even able to pass a bill to reform national health care — something for which most Americans are hankering, and rightly so. Liberal ineffectiveness runs even more rampant on a local level. Yesterday’s campuswide press conference against cutbacks to Cal Grants boasted a crowd of 15 people. In large part, it’s because the average student is turned off by extremism — and rightly so. Instead of asininely comparing Mark G. Yudof to Hitler or holding up signs with confusing declarations such as “Fees Are Racist,” activists should be doing more to educate all those too busy studying biochemistry to write a letter to their legislature or walk out of their class in protest. An ability to inspire people to care about what’s going on around them and a willingness to negotiate with the “other side” without resorting to inflammatory rhetoric works. It’s how Martin Luther King Jr. slowly eroded away at centuries of racism and segregation. It’s how Barack Hussein Obama became President. And it’s the only way to work toward change on this campus.