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Can we talk about politics any longer?

By Peter Weinberger

Now that we have elected a president, it’s time to take a break from all the rhetoric between friends, families and, of course, politicians. Was it just me or did it seem it was almost impossible to have a civil political conversation with people of differing views?

It’s clear we have become more polarized and partisan when talking about any sort of issue…local or national. As I read the letters in the COURIER, sometimes it seems we are simply playing a game of “point-counterpoint,” which was a popular segment on 60 Minutes years ago.

Many people like to blame the news media for any ills America might have. I have grown tired of hearing the phrase “liberal media” from Republicans who constantly think they are being picked on. If the media is considered such a problem, then why can’t you just tune into Fox news?

I’m not going to fill this column with liberal opinions. It just seems that when you say “no” to everything, it’s open season to challenge that point of view.

Where the media and Internet have made a huge impact is how readily people can tune out other points of view. Whether it’s TV, websites, blogs or radio, with thousands of choices to get information, just change the station or bookmark websites with opinions like yours. This, of course, polarizes us even more.

With little to no checks and balances on the accuracy of information on the Internet, there’s misinformation everywhere. Politicians pick up on this, with statements that go way past normal election campaign rhetoric.

I know plenty of conservatives who just say “hmmm” when hearing the stunning amount inaccurate information coming out of the Romney campaign. Maybe it was the flip-flopping on the issues, or the intense desire to appeal to certain segments of voters during any given campaign speech (the classic case was his “47 percent” comment). Obama is full of rhetoric, too. But agree or not, you know what he stands for.

What I do know is that after the first presidential debate, Romney focused on such moderate views, it almost seemed he wanted to be an honorary Democrat.

Does it really matter who becomes president with a federal government so dysfunctional? With a Republican controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate, can there be common ground anywhere?

Compromise might as well be a 4-letter word. Instead of trying to solve issues that face the American people, the focus with Congress clearly is about winning and losing. Republicans have made no bones about their goal of getting Obama out of office. Passage of any legislation would be seen as a victory for him, even though Republicans have the influence to put their stamp on it.

Democrats didn’t show much maturity when a group of legislators left the state of Wisconsin to delay the vote on the state’s budget bill. They knew they lost, so instead of accepting the vote of the majority, they leave town. When I heard this, it reminded me of my days in the 2nd grade.

Will politicians in the next 4 years continue to act like kids crossing their arms, stating they will not eat vegetables at dinner? It certainly seems so.

Whatever happened to those back-room meetings between political leaders where they hash out the details of a bill and then announce something has actually been accomplished between parties? It’s been so long, it seems like a distant memory.

This brings me to a discussion with a middle-aged woman who I sat next to on a plane. Our conversation was excellent until politics came up. After that, we were done talking. The problem? We could not even agree on the facts.

She had an intense dislike for Obama and believes he is not an American citizen. Global warming is simply promoted by scientists with an agenda to get more grant money. Obama will dismantle the military and wants legislation to add sales tax on home sales. If he’s elected, she said, all her money is coming out of the stock market. The economy will go into a free fall. Obamacare? I just ducked for cover.

What can you say to answer all this? There’s really no conversation to have here. As she pointed out, it’s all black and white. There’s no middle ground.

After I threw out a few facts about global warming and the stock market nearly doubling under Obama, she dismissed my opinion. “Don’t you read?”

So I’m counting on local and state governments to make a big impact on how we are governed. The good news with a dysfunctional federal government is it will be hard to mess things up…since nothing will get done anyway.

Hey, I’m just trying to keep my glass half full.

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