When is enough, enough?

Published 9:50 am Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I arrived in Atlanta late Friday evening from the West Coast. I decided to try to wake up in my own bed so I headed home with the full moon shining. Thanks to satellite radio, I knew I would have plenty of company.

I turned to one of the political news channels and for the next three and a half hours I listened to defenders of the left and right give their opinions on the issues of the day. I arrived home tired, not just from lack of sleep, but tired of hearing the garbage that passes for modern day political commentary.

I believe in the resilience of the American people to overcome almost insurmountable odds. We have done it before and I believe we have it in us to do it again.

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This country has problems that we haven’t seen in my lifetime. We have economic problems even as our competitors grow stronger. We depend more and more on energy resources that grow smaller and smaller.

Our debt grows at a pace that defies understanding. To say that we are mortgaging our children’s future is an understatement. My grandchildren and great-grandchildren won’t crawl out from under this mountain of debt in their lifetime.

Our children scream for a better education, despite the heroic efforts of many. Poverty and drugs are no longer an issue for just the inner city. Look around you and you will see the ravages of our declining society everywhere.

Yet, for more than three hours I heard almost no thoughtful commentary about the things that threaten our country the most. There was almost no talk about the economy, taxes, debt, jobs, or education. There was no honest debate about who is best qualified to tackle these problems in the upcoming election and why.

Instead, I heard a continuous banter back-and-forth about the disgusting words of Rush Limbaugh describing Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown. Ms. Fluke, who testified before Congress about her belief that her university should cover the cost of contraception, was described as a prostitute and worse by Limbaugh.

Most of the discussions either centered on whether there was some double standard because liberal commentators like Bill Maher and Ed Schultz had used similar descriptions about conservatives Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin. As my father used to say, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

A paragraph could not be uttered without the descriptive words “conservative” and “liberal” being used as some justification or worse, accusation. I submit to you that there is no place in our political discourse for a political heavyweight trashing a 20-year-old woman, no matter what her position may be on a political matter.

When did it become acceptable to describe in such negative terms those that disagree with us? When did our politicians lose the ability to talk positively about their own platforms and plans, rather than demeaning anything their opponent plans to do, or worse, has ever done.

I believe the beginning of our decline in social discourse was partially with the advent of modern talk radio. This helped foster a growing polarization of our population into left or right, red or blue, conservative or liberal. Make no mistake about it; there is no place any longer for that moderate that could see both sides of an issue.

Along the way, people like Rush Limbaugh became enormously wealthy and powerful. The Rush Limbaugh Show is the most listened to radio show in America. It is carried on over 600 stations. He is estimated to earn more than $50 million a year.

Limbaugh, and others like him, on both sides of the aisle, gained the power to influence elections simply by turning on or off the venom of hate against anyone that opposed them. Debate of the issues gave way to bullying your opponents under the guise of supporting a conservative or liberal.

Negative advertising is dominant during this election cycle because it works. Negative commentary is dominant on talk radio because it sells.

Have we really reached the point where our opinion on the validity of the Iraq War, the bailout of the auto industry, or the feasibility of health insurance is defined only by the party we profess to belong to? Are tax policy and the growing debt only debatable between conservatives and liberals? Is the middle ground totally lost?

The most encouraging thing I have seen in recent times is the growing number of advertisers that are pulling their support of the Rush Limbaugh Show following his attack on Sandra Fluke. They are taking that action because internally they believe he crossed the line. They are removing their advertising dollars because they believe that people like you and me have had enough. Limbaugh was a bully and Americans of all persuasions hate a bully.

You have the right to listen to and support whatever commentator you choose. Frankly, listening to either side is better than not listening to all. Believe it or not, there is a huge part of our population that knows very little about the issues we face beyond how it affects their own pocketbook.

I long for the day when a candidate can describe his beliefs to me without using the words “conservative” or “liberal”. Tell me what you think and let me make up my mind on my own. Calling yourself conservative over and over does not make you the only acceptable candidate in my book, any more than another candidate calling himself liberal and vilifying the conservative opposition does in someone else’s book.

If you have to bully a college student or a woman or frankly anyone to get your point across to me, then your point is lost. For this voter, I have had enough.

Dan Ponder can be reached at dan@donalsonvillenews.com.