Black and white politics

"Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people."

— Oscar Wilde

I discovered the greatest videos on this last week, the 1968 ABC William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal debates. These debates were conducted in a far different way than the political news shows of today.

Each person was given a topic and simply spoke their opinion about the topic. They did not communicate with each other. These debates were during a time similar to ours, America was tiring of the Vietnam War, a presidential election was coming, and America was quickly becoming a divided nation. What made these debates so interesting was that these men had so many intelligent things to say. They both were eloquent and spoke about topics specifically and individuals generally. These debates were intelligent and civilized, unlike anything I have seen on television.

However, these debates came to a screeching halt when the two debated live. The extreme differences of their ideologies brought the debates to a screeching halt when they started calling each other names and threatened to become violent. This was, sadly, a "modern" television moment. At first, I delighted in this crazed confrontation. It was entertaining. I realized, however, that this outburst destroyed what could have been the start of a wonderful program. It is clear that television has realized that such petty outbursts entertain viewers and stretch viewership. Yet, in the pursuit of entertainment, all intellectual and political discussion has deteriorated into ad hominem attacks.

What is interesting is that Gore Vidal once purported that there is only one political party in America, with a liberal side and a conservative side. But, Vidal says, they are not that different from each other. At this point in history, only moderate candidates will ever become President. This limited movement in American politics frustrated Vidal because reshaping America is difficult.

Buckley seemed content with the current system and was willing to argue about the limited changes that moderate Democrat and Republicans can bring. In one of the debates, he said Switzerland was the best run country in the world because the citizens of Switzerland did not know who their president was. Buckley supports the separation of the general populace and politics. Yet, he also knew that neither one of the presidential candidates would neither raise nor ruin our country. But, he did favor the Republican just as Vidal did support the Democrat. Despite admitting the small differences of American politics by both Vidal and Buckley, each individual's opinion were so sharply different from each other that they could not rationally discuss anything.

These two men represented the most eloquent of their respective sides. Yet, these two brilliant men could not find any common ground with each other. Instead of fighting ideas with ideas, their collective frustration brought their intelligence to its knees. This incident is a wonderful illustration of America in general. America is so divided between politics that progress is abandoned for satisfaction of being correct. We are not a nation united. Yet, we are not as divided as we have been in the past. Right now, America is split like two siblings riding in the back of a station wagon on the way to Disneyland. Each wants separation and domination of the whole back seat but must allow the other some room in order to visit the theme park. Our nation must put away our childish behavior, realize unity is stronger than pointless bickering, and produce human beings who are able to push and develop our nation in ways we never thought possible.

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