Playground Presidents

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
[NOTE: This article was written by me and appeared in our school newspaper a few weeks ago.]

Presidential campaigns are supposed to exemplify American democracy, and the notions of free speech and open debate that underlie the political traditions of the United States.

But this year, on the eve of the 2004 election, the campaign between Republican incumbent George Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry has devolved into a grotesque carnival of name-calling and mud slinging more reminiscent of a high-school food-fight than of a reasoned political debate.

Over the past four years, the Left has taken great relish in portraying its number one bogeyman, President Bush, as either a bungling nincompoop or cunning would-be dictator, who, as a recent slew of Bush-bashing books allege, harbors a long-running cocaine addiction and is controlled by a conspiracy of puppet-masters in the oil industry, the bin Laden family, and the House of Saud.

The Right, for its part, depicts Senator Kerry as a vain, flip-flopping patrician, who lied about his Vietnam War record, injects his face with Botox, and wishes to relinquish America's foreign policy to the French.

Unfortunately for fair-minded people with an interest in the truth, such crude and unfair caricatures have become the chief staple of the political discourse between the Left and Right.

During the Republican convention in New York, throngs of angry left-wing zealots descended on Madison Square Garden, burning effigies, screaming insults at delegates, and waving placards comparing Bush to Hitler. Meanwhile, inside the convention hall, an audience of equally stalwart conservatives cheered and booed on cue as Republican speakers took to the podium to denounce John Kerry as an indecisive liberal wimp whose plan for defending the country consists of arming the U.S. military with “spitballs.”

The clash of party ideologies that erupted in New York is but a microcosm of the larger holy war raging across the American political landscape. Indeed, one might say that the Republican and Democratic parties have developed into full-fledged cults, each commanding its own army of propagandists and loyal jihadist foot-soldiers bent on destroying "the Enemy."

The polarized and vitriolic political atmosphere that has gripped the U.S. threatens to turn-off young voters to politics. After all, when young Americans see their politicians behaving like rascally children on a schoolyard, taunting and bullying their opponents, they're likely to take their ball and go home.