Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have Americans Always Been Like This?

Have Americans always been like this?

I used to be deeply into politics but now I'm all about NASCAR. Oddly enough, political aficionados and NASCAR fans are much the same in how blindly partisan they are.

Political supporters despise the other guy. It isn't enough that they disagree with his positions on policy, he has to also be a foreign-born, Muslim communist. He isn't just wrong on the issues, he's guilty of treason.  It isn't enough to work to beat him in the next election, he has to be impeached.  He is worse than Hitler!

Meanwhile, on the NASCAR sites, attitudes are similar. After a race, the blogs go up dripping venom. The race winner is an idiot, he's a piece of shit, he's gay (NASCAR's favorite pejorative). Someone should put him into the wall. He isn't given credit for having even a smidgen of talent. He wouldn't have won if a) he didn't have a great crew chief or b) he didn't have a great pit crew or c) he didn't cheat or d) his owner didn't pay off NASCAR to let him win or e) (my favorite), he has a lucky golden horseshoe up his ass.

I've only been a NASCAR fan since 2008 so I don't know what it was like back in the day. Did Richard Petty's supporters loathe David Pearson? On the other hand, I've been a faithful politico since the 60's and I don't think we used to be so poison-filled.

I remember Republicans like Bob Michel and Everett Dirksen and Howard Baker and Democrats like Tip O'Neill and Sam Ervin and Scoop Jackson. As I recall, these men were highly esteemed and respected by both parties. We believed then that once the elections were over, these men would work together and be willing to compromise to do what they thought was best for the country.

Democrats didn't try to destroy Dwight Eisenhower and Republicans didn't try to destroy John F Kennedy (although God knows, he had as many human frailties as Bill Clinton). Richard Nixon's impeachment was a joint exercise by Republicans and Democrats who were in agreement that high crimes and misdemeanors had been perpetrated by the Nixon administration.

Now, we live in a world of perpetual elections. Every quote and decision is made with partisan politics in mind. Saying something positive about your opponent is considered lilly-livered. We want our candidates to be on the attack at all times and of course, today's media stirs that pot until it boils.

So, it's armed camps all around, both on the campaign trail and at the NASCAR tracks.

I don't know when that started but I wish expecting every contest to be a death match would stop.