Thug Politics in America

In the words of a favorite song, it's time to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Tom Friedman was on point in his column today. Our politics and national discourse have entered a new era of thug-life. Like bullies on the playground who get out of control, undermining a child's ability to thrive and even resulting in violence, this thuggery threatens to undermine our democracy and erode our American values.

I won't go through the litany of outrageous attacks on the presidency -- suffice to say the latest today is a story on newsmax suggesting that Obama risks a military coup.

Having seen this movie before as a staffer in the Clinton Administration, it is painful to again watch the right-wing machinery crank into overdrive; and the rhetoric spin up on all sides.

Let me say upfront that I was not a fan of the "pc movement"; I believe that while it may be harder, it's far better to have our prejudices and fears out in the open.

As America moves forward in this time of tremendous economic, cultural and social change, the future is uncertain. People are anxious, frustrated and scared. But as we all should have learned as children, there is an appropriate way to express that fear. Just as there is an appropriate way to listen and engage in a discussion about those fears.

While I don't agree with John McCain on much, I honor his service to our country and respect that last summer when his campaign rallies became hostile and destructive, he stood up and pushed back.

So where's the leadership now? Where were Republican and Democratic leaders this summer when the debate once again began to spiral out of control as the bullies seemed to take over the playground?

Whose responsibility is it to "fix" this problem? If Americans really want to move beyond the old politics of division and fear, each one of us has to hold ourselves, our leaders, and the media accountable. Playing a role in de-legitimizing the Presidency of the United States either directly or with our silence, whether for political gain, ratings or bloodsport is unacceptable.

It is particularly disturbing to see many of the same national media who had an almost insatiable appetite for the Whitewater "scandal," and dropped the ball as we were led to war in Iraq based on false information, now seem more interested in covering the process of de-legitimizing rather than take responsibility for their role in it.

Glenn Beck's reckless rantings stoke people's fears and encourage extremists in pursuit of ratings and News Corps' profits. The reward for his deplorable behavior was a Time magazine cover story. Meanwhile, Lou Dobbs is using the platform provided to him by CNN to push right-wing propaganda and legitimize craziness like the birther story or stoke anti-immigrant fears. Recently he showed the true cowardice of a bully as he attempted to shy away from comments he made on his radio show about "bloodsucking leftists" and "driving a stake through his heart" as part of the health care debate. CNN tried to suggest that what he says on his radio show is not the same as his TV show or some such nonsense. Did we tell that to his listeners and viewers?

We can be scared or angry. We can raise questions, concerns or doubts. But we can do it in a manner that strengthens rather than undermines our democracy.

As President Obama so eloquently stated during the campaign, " This union may never be perfect. But generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected."

It's time we stand up to the bullies.