How the sport of politics keeps us divided | Guest column

By Kathleen Bartholomew

San Juan Island

America is sliding into political dysfunction so severe that it challenges our status as a nation because politics has become a sport.

Americans root for their respective political “teams” with a frenzied energy determined to “win” the game, not realizing that our common good is the football – kicked from side to side to the cheering, or booing, of the masses. Our myopic fixation with winning and losing has created the most captivating sport in town: “Us vs. Them” – and the meme of civil bifurcation endures. The common good that our Forefathers envisioned has been replaced by gamesmanship. On this path, can “We,” in Lincoln’s words, “long endure?”

Game on! Both political parties act like NFL teams fighting to the seasonal death, each ignoring the larger interests of the nation by artificially dividing every issue and refusing to accept compromise. The media capitalizes on the excitement by announcing each play-by-pundit-play, supporting and enforcing our insidious hunger for competition and drama. So distracted, we fumble, unable to tackle critical economic and social issues. This nebulous moment when politics transformed into a sport has escaped public perception.

New social behavioral norms came into play when money became the dominant factor on the Hill. Individuals and corporations can now legally bribe and purchase players to protect their vested interests. The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court Decision made things infinitely worse by throwing out corporate limits on TV advertising. Social norms (doing the right thing) morphed into market norms (every man for himself). The result? Corporations and Super PACs now purchase entire sections of the stadium, and the price of admission is too expensive for the average man whose lone voice is drowned out in the nosebleed section. There is no true discourse in an “Us vs. Them” society. What now America? I fear our countrymen do not have the constitution, nor the desire, for that ‘most perfect union’.

Lacking the experience necessary to delay gratification; the wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of the world, or the compassion to look beyond individual monetary gain for the betterment of all, the two warring halves of our adolescent nation jab at each other with frightening immaturity.

No statistic matters. Not the cocaine epidemic, or embarrassing obesity and diabetes levels; not infant mortality rates worse than Cuba, or an ineffective, expensive penal system, sub-par education, or impending environmental demise. Even the massacre of a first grade class at Sandy Hook wasn’t enough motivation for us to unite. Evolutionary biologists have found it is the ability to work in harmony for the good of all that ensures survival. But that is not the way our teenage nation is behaving. If we are to secure the blessings of liberty, justice and tranquility our forefathers imagined, Americans must demand change by calling forth a conviction to come together like we have never done before for the betterment of all of us – not just some of us. Then, someday we can once again proclaim, “We, yes we, the people!”