Friday, November 10, 2006

Accentuate the negative

I've been working on covering the campaign of 2006 since January of 2005. I'm glad it's over. It's taken a lot of work, 7 days a week at ridiculous hours of the day and what do I have to show for it? A bunch of other people got new high-paying gigs and get to drive shiny black Escalades. Well, good for them.

Sen.-elect Amy Klobuchar was in yesterday so I introduced myself. "Oh, you're Polinaut," she said. Nice. I introduced her to Sean who noted that he worked backstage Sunday night at the MPR Senate debate, and then -- being my son -- he told her he thought she was better at the State Fair debate. The two then engaged in a wonderful exchange of tactical analysis of the campaign, and the one thing I noticed is that Sen. Klobuchar kept focused on Sean and what he was saying, where a lot of politicians would've blown him off and focused on some, oh I don't know... blog writer. That was cool. And it told me a lot.

I like covering politics, it's people who like politics that drive me crazy. By the end of the campaign, the rabid element of the electorate is foaming at the mouth, ready to kill anything, not for the sport of it, but because their brains are sparking from the wrong neurons.

We had a Democratic wave in our corner of the universe too, with the exception of our congressional race, which was won by a woman who is far right wing, and goes to church on Sunday and apparently listens to God, but not the 44% of the voters who don't like her.

Her opponents said she was a crazy, out-of-control rabid, God squadding, gay hating, Pope killing monster. "Just listen to her," they said. They're pretty upset with the media because the media didn't report every day "Crazy, out-of-control rabid, God squadding, gay hating, Pope killing monster still in race for Congress." Neither did her opponent. "It's not the opponent's job," they said,showing a fairly sizeable ignorance of the democratic process.

So the morning after Election Day, one of the calm, well-reasoned, logicians sent me an email, "Fuck you, Collins. Good riddance." I'm guessing he doesn't get the concept of irony.

I wrote my last post on Polinaut Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning, several had admonished me for being cynical and negative, although -- as near as I could tell -- they didn't explain why Polinaut's readers had made it the most read page on the MPR Web site in just a few months.

What the detractors have done is what a lot of us do during the political season. They assume that democracy hinges on people doing things their way. They insist that there is one right belief, and it is theirs.

This is the true source of their irritation, since there are now 300 million people in America and at any given time, 4 of them will need months to come up with a proper date for a picnic.

This "negative" thing on the other hand, is one that has dogged me for some time. I happen to like being known as "the idealistic cynic" (that should've been the name of the blog), for while the people who call other people "cynical," mean it in the negative, it betrays their ignorance of who the cynics were... and are. They believed that perfection was possible and, if nothing else, one should strive for it.

That's a difficult concept for Minnesotans to understand, for they will gladly forfeit perfection -- or the drive for it -- in exchange for the perception of warm civility.

It's called passive aggressive. In Minnesota, a person might smile and say to someone else, "have a nice day," when they really mean, "you should die."

The other person will say "thank-you," and then walk away, and both will think "what did he mean by that?" They will then substitute reality for the answer to that question.

In a world where you only have so much time and energy to expend, far too much of it here is spent trying to figure out what the words that are used really mean. Communication in the upper Midwest is an entirely fraudulent exercise, something that frustrates just about everyone who has ever moved here, especially those from the East, which has become the mover-and-shaker capital of the world because the time not spent trying to figure out what someone else really meant is used to move and shake.

It is not everyday I quote Harvard professors. But Phillip Greenspun has a tremendous treatise on "the negative people" today. Many Minnesotans won't understand it, but maybe some will:

The true pessimists are those who never complain.

And they are the ones who can make a difference

1 comment:

DaveG said...

The campaign was pretty contentious here in Ohio too. In fact, my district still does not know who our Congressperson will be. The battle between those two was so ugly that many of us were rooting for both to lose.

I wish for two things from the next Congress: I wish for the now minority GOP to behave as adults and not engage in partisan obstructionism, and I wish for the Dems to get busy fixing serious problems in our infrastructure rather than waste time and effort trying to impeach the President.

I am not optimistic on either of those. The GOP seems more interested in placing blame for their loss than looking instrospectively into a mirror, and the Dems appear poised and ready for investigations, etc.

My fearless prediction: the next two years will be nothing but an extension of the recent campaign season, leading up to a noisy and divisive 2008 election. Serious issues will continue to be kicked down the road.

Congressional leaders, please prove me wrong!