Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012.09.23 Politics de Jour

Watching the recent Elizabeth Warren/Scott Brown debate, I decided I did not know anymore what a debate was, because this felt more personal than political— unwinnable war. Now there’s a familiar term. (Think Afghanistan, Iraq, et. al. )  Nor did I know what politics was really good for.

This putative “debate” between the two candidates for the U.S.Senate seat now occupied by Brown, a Republican who advertises himself as the most bipartisan Republican since the beginning of time and led off this “debate” with a challenge to his Democratic opponent Warren. He said she’d checked off the box declaring herself Native American, which “clearly she’s not” (just look at her blond hair and cute pug nose—she should’ve left her hair its naturally dark color perhaps?).......and this “lie” besmirched her character. He wondered why she didn’t release her personnel records.

I  wondered why, too,  but maybe Harvard where she teaches law doesn’t do that. I don’t know.  Warren said she believed her parents who told her her father’s parents disapproved of the marriage because her mother was Native American. She never did a fact check. Statements from her employers testified she was hired on merit.

But...did she check the box to give herself an edge?  Godde knows....and probably Godde doesn’t care.  And certainly I don’t either.  If she did use her heritage as a qualification, so what? I doubt Harvard would hire anyone who wasn’t fully qualified. They have a rep. Still, Warren was a woman breaking into a patriarchal system. Shouldn’t she use every legitimate edge she can?  She, like many women, has proved herself. I hope I have too in the patriarchal church that ordained me almost against its almighty will.

To Warren’s credit she tried to steer the debate to a creative exchange of position statements on issues.  I noticed her tongue swirling inside her closed lips.  Was that nerves or a “be still my tongue” gesture? She cited Brown’s voting record on issues as opposed to putting down his good guy image, big gas-guzzling truck, his victim story, or the fact that he based his pro-women politics on being on the side of women since he was six in an abusive family system. Is he using that line to get elected? 

Both candidates made some points and counterpoints and left unanswered questions, but the tone of the non-debate was one of hostility, the tension camouflaged by too many thank-you’s for the “great questions” etc. and ridiculous acknowledgements that each was a “nice woman” and a “nice man.”

Not a true debate. No grit on the guts of policy,  and not enough opportunity for honest articulation of the visions for the future of the country each candidate stands behind and why. 

Maybe the rules for political debating these days need to be altered to be more in line with true debate, or the moderator, who did a good job of refereeing, should have more freedom to intervene, to cry foul.   There should be no need for a referee.

Two true confessions: 1) I’m a Democrat and lean toward the vision of that party right now in history because the values of justice for the disadvantaged aided by government policies and programs are more in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ, my plumb line. (I remember the day I snuck into Town Hall in a small CT. town to change my party affiliation, looking around every corner to make sure my father, a staunch Republican I loved and thought I should follow, was nowhere in sight. I bet if he were alive now he might follow me.
And 2) ...I’m a feminist who believes that the personal IS the political. (I first got political with intention when I joined the League of Women voters in midlife. I hated it, not because I didn’t believe in its purposes but because I’m really bad at standing on street corners flailing big signs about and waving, knocking on doors, or calling strangers who might yell at me or hang up.  Thin skin.)  Still, I didn’t think the principle meant politicians should snipe in such personal ways,  the media joining the fray with glee. Feminism meant that decisions made in the halls of government deeply affected women’s personal lives, and therefore all people's lives, so politics mattered, not as a sport but as a way to serve humanity, the common good, and Godde. 

Women have the vote, but political discourse needs some cleaning up. I guess all women are called to be suffragettes all the time really, and in their own ways.

I could actually stump for Jesus—and debate the politics of the “kingdom” without snark.