Lies, Damn Lies, and National Division

I’ve just been pondering a problem I’ve pondered before, and cannot see a solution to.

One thing I heard a fair bit of both before and after the election was a frustration at some people’s reasons not to vote for Kerry, because they were at odds with his platform. The idea being that someone who was dissatisfied with Bush but voting for him anyway because they were against gay marriage and turning tail in Iraq was dumb or ill-informed, because Kerry was also on record as being against those things.

The problem here is that we’ve come to a point where it’s very hard to reach across the political divide on issues, because the people on the other side just won’t believe you. In this case, I suspect a lot of the folks on the red side of the divide just didn’t believe that Kerry wasn’t lying through his teeth, all the while planning to surrender Baghdad to Zarqawi while raising taxes to all-time highs and making it legal to marry a box turtle.

It’s not a one-way divide, either. Let’s hypothesize, for the sake of argument, that the President had gone on national TV last week and said that in a second term he would allow most of the tax cuts to expire on schedule, replace Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, repeal the more egregious provisions of the PATRIOT Act, and leave gay marriage and other social issues to the states like a good conservative should.

Well, I’d think that was a hell of an improvement to his platform. But I wouldn’t have believed him. I don’t think many of the folks on the blue side of the divide would have. Not unless Rumsfeld and Ashcroft were on the street immediately, and even then it would seem awfully convenient.

I’m not sure how to wrestle with the credibility problem, but I think in a very real way it *is* the national division. We can’t start building consensus and compromise on issues when there’s that basic chasm of distrust to contend with.

Originally published on LiveJournal