For several months now, my friend Todd and I have agreed not to talk about the war in Iraq. Todd and I have known each other for almost twenty years now, and our major bond growing up was arguing over politics. But this disagreement cut too close to the bone, and an uneasy detente has ensued.
Todd and I are not alone. Many Americans are not talking about politics this year, or are only talking with people who already agree with them. While we have always been a polarized country, for the last several decades that polarization was reflected in political posturing at the national level. Next door neighbors could always agree to disagree with each other , or perhaps even to debate with civility and good cheer. Those days are gone, but hopefully they will reappear soon.
By this point in the Bush era, even stalwart conservatives are beginning to abandon him. Something is rotten in the District of Columbia, and everyone knows it. If the Democrats claim one or both houses of Congress, two years of gridlock and Congressional investigations await us. Investigations--for example, of Halliburton's contracts in Iraq, or of Vice President Cheney's secretly developed energy policy early in the first administration--are long overdue. But even if these inquiries establish important facts for the record, public policy development will be at a standstill.
So real progress isn't possible until 2008. Whether a Republican or Democrat wins, hopefully all sides will refrain from petty bickering. That may be too much to wish for in national candidates, but I hope it's not too much to ask of next door neighbors.