Rhetoric continues to devalue pre-election conversation

By Samuel Charles

Esquire has been my favorite magazine for a while. I see a lot of myself in the editorial content: mild arrogance, political interest, obscure pop culture references and a heavy dose of sarcasm. But even when reading the pages that mirror my life in so many ways, oftentimes an article will be featured that sparks a new way of thinking.

Such was the case with an article in the February 2012 issue focusing on how even though America seems more divided than ever, there is more mutual ground than people realize.

For those who read my column frequently—all four of you, not including my mom—you’ve probably noticed that most of the time I write about what is irking me that week. It pains me to admit, I’ve been contributing to the constant breakdown of communication between opposing sides of the spectrum. For that, I’m regretful.

But in the grand scheme of things, the rants of a college newspaper editor that fewer than 10,000 people read every week are a drop in the bucket compared to the actions taken by the Super Political Action Committees associated with the two top Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

The constant and mercilessly skewed commercials encapsulate a fundamental flaw in the American paradigm: It’s more important to sound and act intelligent than to actually be intelligent.

Super PACs are, in essence, exploiting a loophole in the election process that allows groups of people—the committees—to raise funds for candidates as long as they don’t interact or plan with them. Oh, and there is no limit to how much people can donate and their identity can stay secret.

In recent debates, Gingrich and Romney have sharpened their rhetoric, attacking one another for not being conservative enough, and America sinks lower with every untrue claim, every half-truth and every Super PAC donation.

Political campaign ads are part of the American electoral process for better or worse, and to a certain degree they serve a purpose. Ads that point out another candidate’s flaws are, in reality, even more important, so long as the points are true.

It can’t be coincidence that in a time of a breakdown in intelligent and meaningful discourse, the U.S. has fallen into mediocrity in terms of global intelligence. International education scores show that the U.S. is now ranked 11th in the world in terms of math and science, falling behind Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the Czech Republic.

Remind me again, why do we care about Gingrich’s mistresses more than his education policy?