I’m not so sure, and perhaps the question is more than rhetorical.
It seems that wherever I travel, colleagues in other countries are fascinated – and a little frightened – by what’s happening in American politics. The much-talked-about polarization seems to be taking its toll not only in political campaigns in the United States, but is making people in other countries wonder about us, as a society and as a people.
What is happening? Most of the time, we Americans are quick to refer to the many fine qualities of democracy. Yet the simple virtues (I suppose we could call them) simply do not seem to be in place in the current election process. As a result we’re being perceived as a hypocritical people, perhaps even a little two-faced.
“What’s happened to respect for the other politicians?” I’m asked, along with: “Why is there so much lying, so much deceit?”
And we admit that it’s nothing new. American politics has always been a little rough, but now the personal attacks and the false information are causing many of our global colleagues to re-think their relationship with us.
Why are things worse this time around?
Could it have to do with knowledge development/knowledge sharing (KD/KS) in political organizations, specifically in the political parties? Knowledge might seem to be a bit of a reach here, since it’s really not knowledge that is being developed and shared. It’s simply content, information and news and statements that – as developed – are re-worked and re-phrased so that – in the sharing – they can be used to do harm, to prevent rather than strengthen the relationship between the politicians and the electorate.
As for myself, I’m not sure what the answers are, and I would like to have some guidance from readers. I see what people like Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, and others are writing and I usually agree with most of them, since I have the sense that their logic and their intentions are honorable.
But where is the other stuff coming from? When what can only be described as hate content is put forward as “the truth,” and we see people refusing to accept factual information and knowledge because they do not “trust” the sources, how do we convince them that it is to their advantage – and that of the rest of us – to listen to both sides of the story? Is it appropriate for us to re-focus KD/KS so that it connects – in some way – with excellence, with higher standards for sharing, and with questions about honestly and truth?
And is it simply a question of politics and KD/KS in politics? Is there something wrong with the overall way we manage and deal with knowledge? Do we need to go back to Step One and start all over again?
I’m waiting – a little anxiously, I admit – to see how we are going to deal with this.