Electronic Frontier Foundation
 Electronic Frontier Foundation
 Electronic Frontier Foundation
 Electronic Frontier Foundation

Greg HankinsBars and politics don’t mix. I know this from experience, though common sense dictates that I should have figured this out before gaining so much experience. Then again, bars and common sense don’t always mix smoothly either. Eventually I got clued in, and I managed to do so with all of my teeth still intact. Better late than never, I suppose. Now when adult beverages and politics mix, I try to limit myself to the roll of observer. It’s much more entertaining when viewed as a spectator sport … safer, too.

 

My favorite watering hole, conveniently located between home and my day job, is the bar of a family owned Mexican restaurant that has been in business for over thirty years. I don’t know that their margarita is the best in the Las Vegas valley, but it’s so good that I quit looking for better. The food is damn good as well, and, yes, they serve it at the bar. They’ve been getting my business for many years. Over that time, I’ve made friendly acquaintance with many of the other regulars. Our politics may not match up, it’s a crowd predominantly well to the right of center, but that doesn’t get in the way of a good time. There are plenty of other things to talk about … usually.

 

Last week I was nursing one of those fine margaritas (on the rocks, heavily salted rim), munching tortilla chips dipped in fiery salsa while scrolling about the Internet on my smartphone. A cable news program ran on the television behind the bar, but I was paying no real attention to it. Two seats to my right, in an otherwise empty bar, sat a man who I had seen a few times before, but didn’t really know. He turned to me and, gesturing to the TV, said, “I really hate that guy – such a clown.”

 

I looked up at the TV and saw Chuck Shumer, Senate Minority Leader, on the screen. “What do have against him?” I asked.

 

“He’s a Democrat.” The man sneered.

 

Ooooookay…. “Can you be more specific?” I asked him.

 

“He’s an obstructionist.” He spat.

 

I looked back to the television, which now displayed an image of Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Just Say No to Obama” McConnell. The counter argument to “Mr. Sneering Spitter” was obvious. I looked back at him, thought for a moment, and then just shrugged. “Politics”; I said dismissively with a shake of my head. I turned my attention back to my drink and come fiery salsa. I knew the conversation was not worth pursuing. Nothing productive would come of it.

 

The country is rife with political division these days. It’s been that way for a while, but with every passing year the gap between Left and Right gets wider and wider. One might think that such widening leaves a lot more room for folks that want to occupy the middle ground, but not many seem inclined to do so. Instead, the common mantra sounds a great deal like the ancient battle cry, “You’re either with us, or against us.” Those are fighting words and they leave little room for negotiation.

 

For eight years, the Republicans did everything they could to stand in the way of President Obama. Now, with control of both the legislative and executive branches of government, those same Republicans are moving as quickly as they can to undo everything the previous White House administration accomplished. In response, the Democratic party has taken hold of the old Republican playbook and are taking their turn at playing obstructionist. Considering the GOP control of both House and Senate, it’s going to be a much tougher (and less successful) battle for the Left.

 

Should the Democrats regain a level of control, either through the 2018 midterm elections or the 2020 general election, then one can be sure that the roles will again be reversed … with one side trying to undo and the other trying to block those efforts. Then the next round of elections arrives, perhaps the ball changes hands once again, and the cycle continues. Back and forth, back and forth, like some brutal tug-of-war while the negotiating table is reduced to splinters – splinters fashioned into weapons. Meanwhile, the Russian Bear and the Chinese Tiger grow ever stronger. With neither the Left nor the Right willing to step into the middle ground and seek compromise, the self-destructive battle will rage on, metaphorical carnage and bloodshed with the American people caught in the middle until, inevitably, both sides crumble and the nation falls into the gaping abyss between the two piles of rubble.

 

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