There is a very thoughtful article on Salon's website today that surprised me with it's effect. The author is no fan of Ron Paul, yet in dissecting the "distortions and smears" Paul has experienced at the hands of our mainstream media and both Republican and Democratic operatives, Greenwald touches on a very important dynamic of our current national dialog:
This whole concept of singling out and labeling as "weirdos" and "fruitcakes" political figures because they espouse views that are held only by a small number of people is nothing more than an attempt to discredit someone without having to do the work to engage their arguments. It's actually a tactic right out of the seventh grade cafeteria. It's just a slothful mechanism for enforcing norms.We are all guilty of this at some time. And perhaps it is too often justified as human nature, or even a political natural selection of a sort. (Hell, I can't even say "Dennis Kucinich" anymore without cracking wise about alien abduction.) Regardless, Greenwald's point is worth personal consideration.
Under the right circumstances, enforcement of norms might have some utility. Where things are going relatively well, and the country has a healthy political dialogue, perhaps there isn't much of a need to expand the scope of ideas that we consider "normal." Having all the people whose views fit comfortably in the mainstream stigmatize as "fruitcakes" all those whose views are outside of the mainstream might, under those happy circumstances, bear little cost.
But our country isn't doing all that well right now. Our political dialogue isn't really vibrant or healthy. It seems rather self-evident that it is preferable to enlarge the scope of ideas that we consider and to expand the debates that we engage.
Whether you agree or disagree with a candidate, political distortions and easily marginalizing them as a "weirdo" is reaching an effect (perhaps even truly reflective of the reality) without doing the work, which does nothing to promote rational discourse and the exchange of ideas.
In my opinion, there are many reasons to disregard a candidate like Paul, but if I have nothing to ad to that point than "he's looney," am I, in a broader scope, fighting against or perpetuating our currently vapid national dialog?