Base Ick

I have a confession. I have not watched a single debate this election cycle. I have always sought to be a good citizen, engaging in issues and participating civically. In fact I was drawn to teaching middle and high schoolers as a means to social/cultural and political/civic change. I always encouraged students to watch the debates and read newspapers. We would debate issues and discuss the debates. It was always a part of civic engagement. This year, though, I couldn’t . I wouldn’t.

With the immediacy of the internet and social media, the opportunity to get an up close look at the presidential candidates in real time seems to happen every moment of every day. The debates seem almost anachronistic to me. They are a tradition that seems to be less relevant as a litmus test of governance, than as a WWE match. These debates reinforce the worst. Of course, no doubt this year it is because of Trump, the anti-politician who has demeaned politics, and everyone and everything.

Of course I have read and watched recaps and analysis the next day, and even during the primaries when the first Democratic debate was substantive, I was not compelled to watch. The reality show that was unreal on the Republican side was easy for me to resist. I could be informed within hours, without needing Maalox.

Without enumerating the litany of disqualifiers that should have long ago eliminated Trump, I am frustrated that for so many election cycles, perhaps this one even more, the campaigns are played to the base. And what an apt term “base” is.
Base can refer to the foundation or starting point; that which (or in this case, those who) support the work (or organization). The base is a conceptual structure or entity upon which something is dependent. Sometimes, the base refers to a substance. In this case, the base  is not about substance. In our politics, the base is about ideology; but mostly it’s about anger and hate. It is worth noting that the base is the bottom.

Of course, as an adjective, “base” means without moral principles; lowly. Hmmmm……

The efforts of politics are directed mostly at the base. During the campaign, it is about garnering support from the base (i.e. strengthening the base), and then playing to the “undecideds”. These uncommitted voters are a tiny swath of the American electorate, and yet their votes are clamored for in the most outrageous, despicable ways, further separating politics from governance, much less from civility. The control of our politics is based on those who are uncommitted or possibly undecided.

We have been living in the gutter during this unbearable election season. Baseless comments, even fact-checked, get repeated and used to rile up anger and hate. Facts seem meaningless. Facts should be basic to decision making regarding our government, especially the presidency. But we are stuck having to try to not look at the disgusting politics, much less the disgusting speech and gestures that have captured this election cycle more than ever. What could be more base than misogyny, racism, jingoism, insulting veterans and their families, insulting disabled people, threats of violence or lack of due process, not paying taxes, taking advantage of workers, students, denying environmental threats…..and that’s not even mentioning the verbiage.

Our democratic principles are based on human dignity and decency.  Right now it’s back to base icks.

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