It hasn't been as far back as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, but it sure seems that long since we've had a great debate about ideas. Today's politicians seem too caught up in hanging on to power (Republicans) or getting it back (Democrats) to care much about which ideas are better than others.
There was a time when people actually debated such things, but in a day of focus groups, polling, fund-raisers, blogs, talk radio and hyperventilating cable TV hosts, ideas and ideology seem in short supply.
I like the first and second definitions of ideology in my dictionary: "(1) visionary theorizing; (2) a systematic body of concepts, especially about human life and culture."
Among the definitions for "idea" is this: "a plan for action."
Isn't this what's missing from much of contemporary politics: visionary theorizing, a body of concepts, and most especially a plan for action that benefits the most people?
Perhaps this reflects a culture that is so fixated on self that it has no regard for much else. Are politicians merely a reflection of this narcissism, or are they contributing to it by their failure to lead? What Democrat has had an interesting idea in recent years? Democrats mostly oppose whatever Republicans are doing and see no merit in any of their ideas. Republicans, who once had ideas, (the Reagan Revolution; the Contract with America) behave like the Democratic majority they replaced. The ideas that put Republicans in power seem to have evaporated. Instead of advancing those ideas, too many Republicans pander to various constituencies, hoping their soon-to-be former supporters will overlook their prostitution.
If a party mostly focuses on winning the next election, rather than giving voters a reason to vote for its candidates, the likelihood of success is greatly diminished. Electoral victory, like happiness, is usually a byproduct of something more substantive. If winning the next election becomes the only goal and if one's sole platform is "elect us, because we're not as bad as members of the other party," voters will be turned off and either switch sides or stay home.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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