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Robert Reich: The Real Center of American Politics: A Reflection on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

November 1, 2010

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By **Robert Reich**

The true center of American politics isn’t found where most of us agree. We fiercely disagree. That’s not a problem. Democracy assumes disagreement.

The true center is about how we resolve those disagreements. Most of us believe we should work them out respectfully.

We don’t believe in winning political arguments through bullying, name-calling, lying, intimidating, or using violence.

In other words, the political center isn’t about what we decide It’s about how we decide. A central tenet of American democracy is a commitment vigorous debate, done honestly and civilly.

That’s why some of what we’ve been witnessing recently is troubling.

Consider the foot-stomping incident in Kentucky by Rand Paul supporters, just outside a Senate debate. Or Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller’s security detail handcuffing a reporter from a liberal-leaning website.

Consider last year’s congressional town hall meetings where members of Congress were shouted down, a Tampa town hall meeting turned violent, and gunshots were fired at Democratic campaign headquarters in Arizona.

Consider the outright lies about “death panels,” “government takeovers,” and the President’s nationality.

Consider Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst against the President on the House floor.

And the vitriol emanating at all hours from rage radio, yell television, and Fox News—against immigrants, intellectuals, “coastal elites,” gays, and the President.

We’re better than this.

This is not respectful disagreement. It’s thuggery. It has no legitimate role in a democracy. And most Americans are fed up with it.

Sadly, we needed two comedians to remind us.

The Colbert Report
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Copyright 2010 Robert Reich

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This post originally appeared at RobertReich.Org.

Robert Reich.JPGRobert B. Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written eleven books (including his most recent, Supercapitalism, which is now out in paperback). Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s Marketplace are heard by nearly five million people.

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