A major point of McCain's speech was that the cynicism in political discourse is a symptom of the corruption in Congress and the halls of power.
I think things are different, and far worse than McCain imagines. The cynicism is not the result of our politics. I believe that the cynicism, corruption, divisive politics, et al., are a result of the way our school system teaches us to be.
Our public schools teach a form of material dialectics as interpreted by John Dewey, Chomsky and other leftist intellectuals who've managed to infiltrate and control the leading positions in the American intellectual community.
The left yanked the study of classic logic out of the public schools. Students no longer learn the distinction between logic and rhetoric. We have developed a new rational style where politicians simply judge their speaking on its affectiveness. As we were not trained to appreciate truth, few politicos consider the question of what is right or wrong as they pen their speeches. The simply consider what is effective in advancing their partisan cause.
With politicians driven by the believe that all is fair in the path to power, they will give mean mean spirited speeches filled sith taunts and barbs. The hope is that people will vote based on feeling and not reason.
Since this is what we are taught in school. Both sides engage in this practice.
Of course, taunts and barbs were part of the classical tradition. For that matter negative discourse is part of quality discourse. In a political campaign, candidates need to differentiate themselves from their opponents. One does this by telling people the good of their position and the bad of their opponent's.
The existence of negative discourse is not the problem. The problem is one of emphasis. In the material dialectics, the foundations of the Marxist system and most leftist thought, conflict is the center of discourse. Marx did not define a what the proletarian paradise would look like. He simply gave an instruction manual for creating dissent that could be used in a rise to power.
The method is simple. You harp on people's discontents with a nebulous call for change. People fall for it, and your political machine takes control.
The really nasty thing about Marx is that he figured out how to do this manipulation at a subliminal level.
Negative statements can help improve our understanding when made at a liminal level. The really nasty divisive stuff happens when attacks are made to influence people at a subliminal level.
As pointed out in Obama's acceptance speech, the neocons did the United States a grave disservice when they created a climate where all dissent to the Iraq invasion was framed as unpatriotic. This created a climate where one could not rationally discuss whether or not the invasion would accomplish the goal of halting the radicalization of Islam.
Unfortunately, much of the anti-war effort was dominated by the radical left. Not all of it was. Just because some people painted themselves green and protested naked doesn't mean that all of the arguments against the war were equally irrational.
Political bedfellows are always strange. Some of the anti-American left was in favor of the invasion as it would mire the US in a conflict. There was a large number of groups and people on the left that gave a nod to the war, but came out against it after the fighting started.
The Founders of the US seemed to understand this process. The politicos of the world love seeing their enemies in conflict. For example, the King of France supported the American's fight against England despite the fact that doing so sealed the the demise of the royalty in France.
The founders wanted a rational debate followed by a Declaration of War before a war. The Democrats gave a tacit nod to the invasion then launched into a full court press against the war when American soldiers were in harm's way. Bush's failure to follow the prescription in the Constitution and in the Powell Doctrine did great damage to our nation.
I an so angry at the Bush and the Republican Party for the way they behaved. Yet, my anger is tempered by the realization that they played the game the way our schools teach us to play the game.
The Bush Administration could not engage in rational discourse when our left-leaning schools fail to impart an appreciation of rationality and fails to give us the tools to engage in rational discourse.
As the NEA has denied the American people the tools of reason, we are destined to be a people whipped to and fro by our sentiments.
As for negative comments. My take is to look at the negative statements and try to determine if they are part of a pattern designed to obfuscate debate and cause us make decisions at a subliminal level, or if they are part an above board effort to draw distinction between candidates.
Since we can't look inside people and see their intentions, it is an impossible task. The abuse of earmarks shows that there are rogues on both the left and right. The fact that the Republicans of the Bush Administration increased the size of government when both their rhetoric and (arguably) the will of the people was for a smaller less intrusive government, shows that many of the players on the right simply repeat whatever slogan is effective then simply grub at the government manna when they are in office.
There is not a political path out of the mire. We need schools that impart a respect for reason, and that will never happen in the context of politically charged public schools.