MINOT, N.D. -- In this moment of American politics we spend little time debating actual policy.
For the politicians and pundits, policy has become merely an excuse for a protracted national soap opera.
A thin veneer over what is little more than a pie throwing contest.
Take state Rep. Mary Adams, a Democrat from Grand Forks, as a case in point. This first-term lawmaker is in the middle of a busy legislative session. One in which a record number of bills were introduced.
Has Adams spent her time on social media updating constituents on the progress of the debates in Bismarck? Has she been sharing her insights on key policies?
Instead she’s been posting memes comparing President Donald Trump to Hitler and expressing her interest in something bad to both him and Vice President Mike Pence so that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can take over in the White House.
When she got called out on these ugly messages she declined to comment on them to Forum News Service reporter John Hageman, then penned a letter to the editor of the Grand Forks Herald in which she said she was “sorry if my posts offended anyone.”
She’s not sorry she made the posts, mind you.
She’s sorry if you’re offended.
Which isn’t really sorry at all.
Sadly the political landscape is peppered with intellectual juveniles like Adams who seem more interested in the aforementioned pie throwing contest than policy debates.
It’s one thing to get overwrought during a policy debate. This stuff matters. It impacts people’s lives in very real ways. Passion is to be expected.
But, again, we’re not really debating policy any more. Politics has become a team sport. The measure of the rightness or wrongness of a given proposal seems to hinge on who is proposing it.
The New York Times editorial board -- hardly a bastion of Trumpist sympathies -- recently chastised Senate Democrats for their knee-jerk opposition to the President’s proposed cuts to Medicare.
“Several sought by Mr. Trump closely resemble cuts that had been proposed by President Barack Obama,” the paper wrote. “And the indiscriminate attacks by Senate Democrats are a reminder of how hard it has become for Congress to perform even the most basic kinds of prudent housekeeping in the public interest.”
It can be hard to find common ground with people who think you’re Hitler’s modern incarnation.
For Democrats, how do you negotiate with someone you’re simultaneously describing as a tyrant?
For all of us, we must stop treating these policy debates as a team sport in which we’re all against whatever the other side is talking about.
President Trump very often lies and says repugnant things. But then, so have his predecessors of both parties, though often in more muted tones.
It’s understandable that this would be a distraction, but we’d all be a lot better off if we quit worrying so much about personalities and instead focused on policy.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.