Guest column: Politics and everyday life
Saying political division is a problem in America is only going slightly farther out on a limb than saying the sky is blue on a clear day.
The difference is, elected officials of different parties today may very well disagree about the color of the sky on a clear day, or at least the definition of a “clear day.”
Talk of bipartisanship among elected officials brings a smirk or even a laugh from many of those who pay attention to the politics of government at the national or state level.
More than a few Americans are so disgusted with the current state of political affairs, they have decided to avoid politics completely.
However, that is impossible, because the standard definition of politics is “who gets what, when and how.” Politics is part of everyday life.
If you want to witness some serious political horse-trading watch a couple with a new baby try to decide “who gets sleep, when and how.”
Politics in the workplace includes decisions about who gets time off around the holidays and how. There are even politics on the playground, but I am so old, I need some kind of reminder about those.
Politics is such a natural part of everyday life, we seldom think of it in those terms, but most of us act in a reasonable and respectful manner in those everyday political situations.
In our society, new parents generally decide who gets to sleep without throwing temper tantrums, and employees don’t usually scream at the manager or storm out of the workplace if they don’t get their way.
While those behaviors happen more than we would like, they are still the exception rather than the rule in our day to day lives.
Respect, honest communication and reasonable consideration of the needs and desires of our family, friends and coworkers are the standards of behavior we expect in the politics of everyday life.
However, when we move into the politics of governance, many seem to throw those standards of behavior out the window.
Sadly, elected officials who are supposed to be leaders are often the worst offenders.
Many elected officials seem to sound more like a raucous fan at a football game than a reasonable public servant.
These elected officials seem more interested in garnering party fanatics than dealing with the challenges and opportunities we face as a nation.
Rather than doing the business of governing, many have fallen into endless marketing campaigns designed to motivate fear and loathing of the other side.
Becoming a cheerleader for disgruntled fanatics makes the life of an elected official easier, because fans are more interested in rooting for their team than learning about the game plan.
Following the lead of the officials, voters are tempted to become mindless cheerleaders who don’t even attempt to understand the plan for governing.
For generations, politicians have used facts and figures to influence potential voters.
Mark Twain popularized the phrase “lies, damned lies and statistics” to make the point that factual information is often presented in misleading ways.
Today, many observers would welcome facts and information into political discussion that has deteriorated into name-calling, bullying and promoting conspiracy theories.
Oh yeah, now I remember politics on the playground.
We would do well to move away from the politics of hate and division and bring the standards we honor in the politics of everyday life back into the politics of governing.
Respect, honest communication and reasonable consideration of the needs and desires of our family, friends and fellow Americans are the standards of behavior we should demand of our political leaders and ourselves.
The politics of governance is more than just a game.
— Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.