Progress over Primetime
In “Death to 2020”, a Netflix mockumentary providing a darkly satirical retrospective on that awful year, interviewers question fictional characters and get their takes on major events. Gemma Nerrick, a British woman identified as “one of the five most average people on the planet,” admits that during the lockdown she watched the entirety of the Netflix library, but that she has found a new favorite program to fill the void. “I got into this show called America, and it was amazing… it’s totally mental. Just one twist after another.”
One of the central issues facing the United States is that its population seems to be working collectively to make this bit of satire into a reality. Historically, trying times in our nation’s history saw a largely united America where party divisions and enflamed partisan rhetoric were toned down in favor of a unified, national response. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has seen over a million Americans die, political polarization has reached levels not seen since the Vietnam era. While the United States remains the world’s preeminent power and thus its internal affairs are rightly of interest to people the world over, our politics need not be the dumpster fire that so many have come to expect.
The latest episode in the soap opera that is America comes in the form of the leaked draft Supreme Court opinion seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, two decisions that together enshrined a constitutional right to abortion. Reactions to the leak are a good example of the current cultural tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. An editorial by Michael Goodwin in the NY Post published less than 24 hours after Politico broke the Roe story calls the leak “Democrats’ dirty May surprise for the 2022 midterms.” The unfounded idea that the leak is the work of liberal operatives has been parroted by many Republican officials. It may be the case that the leaker is a progressive, but it would be best to hold off on theorizing until the marshal of the Supreme Court has concluded her investigation and established all the available facts.
Politicians would do well to take a breather before blurting out their partisan rhetoric, in this case and in a more general sense. The long-term implications of the leak remain to be seen. The quickness with which our leaders jumped on the opportunity to denigrate their opposition, even when all the facts were not yet established, certainly makes for good television. But the tendency is not conducive to a healthy political system. There used to be a reticence to jumping out ahead of an issue without having all the facts, but with today’s win-at-all costs attitude in politics, it is an increasingly common thing to see.