What the bleep? Partisanship and profanity

“... To put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.” – President George Washington in his 1796 farewell address

Earlier this summer, in a perhaps rare bipartisan ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office violated the First Amendment’s free speech clause by restricting “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks by refusing a trademark to businessman Erik Brunetti, who had chosen to name his clothing line FUCT — which is actually an acronym for “Friends U Can’t Trust,” although Brunetti reportedly found the similarity to profanity humorous. 

While hearing the case, justices and attorneys carefully avoided uttering that profanity, instead choosing at one point to refer to it as, “the equivalent of the profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity and perhaps the paradigmatic word of profanity in our language.” 

The word nerd in me admittedly delights in this description, but, more importantly, I take delight in the fact that this was a decision in which the majority opinion included both liberal and conservative justices. 

The “Father of Our Country,” warned against it in his farewell address, and partisanship, I fear, threatens to destroy us. 

As regular readers of this column, or anyone who knows me at all, will likely attest, I myself am extremely liberal from an ideological standpoint. However, I am also cognizant of the fact my views are not shared by all — perhaps most. So, while I personally would like to see more progressive movement on many fronts, I also recognize and respect the views of those who disagree. 

More broadly speaking, my greatest concern for our country, and even the world, at the present time is that our extreme partisanship and factionalism may result in our downfall. 

Full disclosure — not all that long ago I was the chair of the Uinta County Democrats. These days, however, I frequently find myself not wanting to align with either national party. Not because I disagree with many Democratic positions (especially those of our local Wyoming Democrats and the wonderful folks in Uinta County), but because I find the extremes embraced by both parties to be damaging to democracy in general. 

I’ll start with the Democrats. Watching portions of recent presidential debates, I can’t help but be disappointed. Really, Democrats? Instead of actually focusing on problems and policy, you’re going to spend debates bashing former President Obama for not being liberal enough? 

Obama wasn’t perfect — nobody is. I’m sure every former president has regrets, things he wishes he would, or could, have done differently. Every presidential candidate starts out with bold plans, vision and an agenda; however, the reality of navigating the American political system frequently interrupts those bold plans. That’s as it should be and is by design. 

Democrats are fond of saying that even Ronald Reagan would be too liberal by the standards of the current Republican party. Well, the Democrats are apparently now so liberal that even Obama is too conservative. 

That’s a problem. 

And Republicans. The party that for my entire life has claimed to be the party of patriotism and family values now lacks the moral fortitude to stand up to a president who has repeatedly demonstrated himself to be neither a true American patriot nor a model of family values. 

Trump regularly undermines the Constitution he swore to uphold, and his own mouth has betrayed his complete lack of family values on more than one occasion. 

I have heard my Republican friends say the Democrats have moved too far left and they just can’t get behind the “socialism” (as a side note, I doubt most people understand what socialism is and is not, but the realities of column writing leave me without the room to devote to that topic here). What this sounds like to me is, “I’d rather support a lying, philandering, xenophobic misogynist who, by his own admission, has grabbed women in a sexual manner without their permission (i.e., assaulted), and who, by his own admission, welcomes foreign interference in our democracy than a Democrat.” Patriotism and family values, huh?

Apparently both parties are now primarily focused on partisan purity and who can move the furthest right or left. 

For a prime example, look no further than the 2019 session of the Wyoming Legislature, where the priority of the statewide Republican party was to prevent RINOs (Republicans in name only) or, heaven forbid, Democrats from crossover voting in the primary elections. Not solving some of the huge problems Wyoming is facing, like the budget, cuts to education funding, diversifying the economy, tackling healthcare costs, etc., but enforcing party purity and limiting one of the most fundamental and revered principles of American democracy — the right to vote. 

And listening to the ideas of some of the Democratic presidential candidates is just dumbfounding. Do they honestly think they’d be able to convince Congress, and the American people, to support providing a basic income to everyone, no matter what? As someone who has worked extensively with people living in poverty, I am fairly certain that just throwing money at the problem isn’t the solution. 

Stop being disingenuous. Given the horrific acts of violence over the past weekend, just tell the truth. Republicans, this can’t be fixed by simply arming everyone, and Democrats, this similarly can’t be fixed by simply limiting future sales of assault weapons. While I personally believe further gun control measures are warranted and necessary, I also recognize this particular problem is multi-faceted and won’t be solved by simplistic answers. The same could be said for the majority of our most pressing and troublesome problems. Stop pretending difficult and broad problems can be fixed with platitudes. They can’t. 

Seeing and hearing this stuff, I can’t help but think of Washington’s warnings about partisanship and become extremely disheartened that, I guess predictably, we haven’t listened. Well, that, and a curse spoken by a dying Mercutio in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” — “A plague on both your houses!” (Which, by the way, refers only to my general frustration with both parties and is in no way a suggestion that any type of literal plague, infirmity, injury or violence should befall anyone. Violence is wrong. Period.)

Don’t get me wrong. I would and will cast my vote for any of the Democratic presidential candidates over the current occupant of the Oval Office, who has done absolutely nothing to demonstrate he is even remotely worthy of holding that esteemed position. 

But I desperately want my vote in the next election to be for someone and not just against someone else. I think many Americans desperately want the same. I want my vote to be for someone focused on healing our democracy and at least attempting to heal our partisan divides and not simply moving leftward in a knee-jerk reaction to what has happened in the past few years. Knee-jerk reactions are seldom beneficial and would likely only result in a vivid display of the laws of physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. 

Simply stated, I don’t believe our country can handle these continued swings from right to left and back again. We need some time to at least try to stabilize. If we don’t get it, I fear we’re all, well, a profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity and perhaps the paradigmatic word of profanity in our language.


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