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Nov 02, 2012



It seems to me that as the policy differences between the candidates has decreased, the inflammatory rhetoric has increased. There are few, if any policy differences between any of the major party candidates up and down the board, so to keep you from voting for a 3rd party candidate -- the biggest sin of all -- they manufacture differences and a rhetoric of hate to keep you from opting out of the 2 party system. It's sad that US voters are so stupid they continue to fall for this ploy year after year. Perhaps one day they'll wake up.

What I really enjoyed was the early days of the Tea Party when it was open to liberals and conservatives, before it had been bought by the likes of the Koch brothers. It would have been a force to be reckoned with. Instead it is turning into a self parody. Then the "occupy" movement began as the liberal alternative. "To what" still remains to be seen.

Dan Thompson

One way to improve campaign information would be to include a NO option on the ballot so if A convinces me B is flawed I could vote directly against B. Currently, the yes only ballot forces many to vote for A to really vote against B, indicating support that may not exist.The highest net yes wins. Candidates would be pressured to sell their strengths rather than trash their opponent. Wouldn't That be refreshing? Why do we have to say we like yucky broccoli to say we don't like yuckier parsnips? It's time to be able to honestly just say we don't like broccoli. Given human nature, turnout would likely increase and the result would be a far more honest reflection of voter sentiment.

Robert Olcott

Addenda: Thankfully, we also have organizations with commitments to respectful public policy discourse, such as New Hampshire's Live Free or Die Alliance, and similar efforts on a national scale.

Robert Olcott

Thank You for this article. It reminds me of some concerns in the Washington Post Op-Ed piece retiring Senator Olympia Snowe wrote in June.
When (1948) Harry Allen Overstreet wrote his treatise ("The Mature Mind") about Responsible and Mature versus Irresponsible/Immature behavior, he didn't look at just individual persons, but also "Organizations" such as the print/Newspaper industry, and how sensationalism sold news for some, and accuracy did for others. Checking Facts before repeating them, or publicizing them, doesn't seem to be one of the strengths of many of the private PAC's currently airing political TV commercials. Keep up the Good work at POGO!

John Ledford

Perhaps someone could offer a path toward a healthy discourse on important issues.

A monolog is not a discourse. Abandon party lines - we've heard them before. Listen critically, challenging opinions unsupported by facts. Avoid name-calling. Decide on a topic and keep comments to one topic at a time.

Party lines: lies, half-truths, and deliberate mis-statements have left me deaf, ready to discount the speaker and more interested in following the money trail to the source of the mis-information.

In this era, craftiness seems to be honored more than honesty and truth. It remains difficult to "serve both God and mammon.

Bruce E. Woych

I can not support just another bi-partisan version of compromised "my president...right or wrong" (as per my country right or wrong that rationalizes unjust war from our camp). The issues remain the same. The truth is that these two candidates were never more than representatives from a power coalition that seeks supremacy and global exploits.
The only thing that will change upon election is which issue will become the greatest emphasis. Clearly Romney will wreck private equity havoc on the United States domestic economy and intensify class dichotomies between wealth, stealth and health...before we even get to austerity, poverty and a special interest economy stalking the rest of the globe.

Obama enters a second term. Will he now fulfill his promise, or take us even more aggressively and blatantly into a drone world of real politik and the National Security State of constitutional "capture" and insidious encroachments to American Civil liberties.

We shall see...but please don't ask us for blind trust and to follow like sheep. Let's see what paths are actually offered first....after all;...talking points are one thing but, ...actual "walking" points are yet to be seen.

Tommy Hawksblood

It is a sad day when people really think the president will change what is happening to the world. With Freedom being taken away at every level and the Big companies destroying the planet . Really how much is going to change no matter who gets in.

MT kent

OK, OK. I'll try to rein in the rage. More therapy! Still, thanks for your call to cooperate, to discuss, and to compromise on things important to our survival. I've been meaning to for a while (stomach ulcers you know), so now I'll start.


The political candidates have purposely created this hate between citizens to distract people from the real issues that we face and the people that caused them. Americans need to wise up and stand up for each other and start attacking politicians that are worthless deadwood and only think of their own corporate interests.


I call BS. I won't disarm. The progressive trash ruling class treat the rest of us like dirt. To hell with them. POGO is not non-partisan. They are a left-liberal advocacy group that simply hides under the cliched lie of "good government".

Your vision of "compromise" is clubbing me about the head and telling me to shush when I complain, that we need to compromise -- maybe instead of hitting me 5 times in the head, you agree to only hit me 3 times. Compromise with the liberal fascists always ends with their boots on our necks.

Scott Kuechenmeister

it's true. all of it. as soon as one candidate wins this election the senate and congress will be digging in their heels to slow any chance for change. if those representatives were held to the same standard on a federal and local level their voting record could be used to measure the performance of their job. navigating a gov web site is about as easy as explaining the theory of relativity to kindergartners. pogo should take the issues like finance reform, and transparency issues and highlight the issue but also publish the voting results so i can check on the good people of Georgia and insure they are doing what is in the best interest of America and not just their pocket or party.


Apathy is still the mainstream thought. You can't fight City Hall. Why should I care they're all crooks anyway? And the list of rationalizations and excuses continue.

What's worse is that in 4 days no one will care anymore. The damage will be done. BTW, I hope I'm wrong about this. But most people see the President as the most influential person on the planet and yet other than making horrid foreign policy mistakes and wasting trillions of dollars on a DOD and DHS that in the end is just money in contractor's pockets there's little controlled by him.

Instead people need to focus on Congress, judges, local and municipal leaders and even state legislators and Governors. These people do most of the damage.

By the very fact that it took a presidential campaign to get the worked up shows how little they understand the system and how little they know about changing the status quo. Even a well placed and timed Letter to the Editor can have a huge effect on policy.

Let's see some debates at the state level, Mayor level and even City Council, etc.


(This is not to say that all lies are created equal: the vile birther lie is simply unparalleled.)

So that whole Truther line about Bush ordering 9-11 was cool with you? Certainly nothing vile about that..


This insipid article is precisely the sort of superficial nonsense that has CREATED the many problems we face as a nation.

"Oh," the author whines, "if only we can learn to COMPROMISE 'better', we might have 'good government'".

Sorry, this silly notion is considered rational by some for one reason, and that is that education in the U.S. has devolved to such an abysmal state that almost NO ONE of voting age has ever learned the concept of argumentum ad temperantiam. In short, if one compromises incessantly with an individual who demands that 2 + 2 = 6, one will eventually find one self living in a world which irrationally relies on the false notion that 2 + 2 = 5.

This is where we are now.

The problem we have in the U.S. is this: compromise with moral adolescents is producing an utterly dysfunctional society, where sloth is rewarded and productivity is punished; where an entitlement-minded individual is considered more "rational" and socially "acceptable" than a self-reliant, successful one; where encouraging unwarranted self-esteem is considered a suitable replacement for classical education, which once imparted the knowledge and confidence needed for self-respect.

In a world where corruption has invaded the political process, and shows NO SIGNS of abating, compromise is the enemy of civilization.


Sandy Sanders

Come on Danielle, politics and policies that govern our society are not personal. People are emotional, so let them be. This idea that we can have everyone control their emotions is just another way to marginalize expression and free speech.

What we really need is a system that performs the task of facilitating a true act of decision making by citizens, such as...

- Verifiable Vote Count with handcount for over a month if necessary
- Multiple Party Debates and Platform Websites
- Equal Public Funding for the top 7 parties
- No Private or Corporate Money Influencing elections, candidates or issues
- Proportional Representation of the top 5 parties minimum
- Citizen to Government Internet Communications Network that makes mandatory local, regional, state and national policies and representatives accessible to and communicated with, by polling, by voting desired, citizens directly in their home. (No more public meetings buried in the classified ads of local newspapers. Citizens must have direct communication via email and the internet on EVERYTHING going on in their government. No excuses! Make this info accessible or SHUT THIS GOVERNMENT DOWN!)

After we get the above we can move to Direct Democracy from block by block assemblies.

We do not now have anything resembling a democratic republic. It's time to admit that and create one.


Obama's unwillingness to work with Republicans on healthcare reform and ramming-through the unpopular Affordable Care Act, his stonewalling Justice Department, his petulant rejection of compromise to achieve a grand bargain on the budget, his "I won" attitude, his complete lack of understanding that the art of politics is the art of compromise, makes it very difficult to support his as-yet unannounced agenda if he wins reelection.

Kim D.

Danielle, thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking essay. Campaign finance reform would go a long way to de-escalate the discourse. When we have a presidential campaign that, by many accounts, will exceed $2 billion (that is not a typo) we've got our priorites in the wrong place. That's just too much money available to sling mud.

George T. Karnezis


These are sensible observations well worth weighing.
I sympathize with any efforts, such as those by the Kettering Foundation and former Supreme court Justice O'Connor, to enhance civic literacy and civic discourse, generally.

But I'm not sure that technology will work some magic in this regard. Yes, perhaps more people are paying attention to political issues, but the question for me is the quality of that attention and whether our ability to have conversations and dialogue is so atrophied that its character is sadly captured in you opening anecdote. And why so? Partly because the media and popular sentiment and prejudices cannot imagine an argument as anything other than war or a sport with winners and losers. Conversation among people with different opinions thus becomes belligerent and combative, exchanges of pronouncements, never a search for common ground or even a clearer understanding of the sources of disagreement. Consider how seldom we hear any form of the word "criticism" as a name for legitimate questioning. Those running for office do not "criticize" or "question" each other: they "attack" and "defend" and "punch" or "counterpunch," or "bash" each other. These terms, drawn from the world of physical combat, encourage us to think of language purely as a weapon and tend to downplay the possibility that it may be used as a medium in which minds can reason together.

A truly good moderator during the "debates" or post debate conversation might have helped both the debaters and the public to a deeper perception of what separates and what unites candidates, refusing to award a victory wreath to either party. But instead we continually see people in those roles who have no expertise as moderators; and afterwards we are left with an abundance of "commentary" that presumes to award points as they are merited.

Until the media and our educational system do more to help us think rather than watch as people "argue," we as citizens will continue to view dialogue as disputatious by definition, necessarily argumentative, and always litigious. But our education system has done little to help us understand better and worse ways to discuss matters over which there is legitimate disagreement. Instead, entertainment provides us with "models" of people making judgments, that is, if we watch the "judges" on THE VOICE or "Dancing With the Stars." But where are the "experts" on TV or elsewhere when it comes to assessing the cogency of an argument or position? Former coaches comment on athletics, and entertainers supposedly have "expertise" in judging performances. But where are the "experts" when it comes to assessing candidates' capacities for making a case or responding to criticism?
Why is it that TV pundits have been awarded such a position? Are there no experts from universities who have studied the arts of argument, scholars of language and rhetoric who can make the public sharper listeners to those who are seeking our vote? Apparently not, though Kathleen Hall Jamieson does get trotted out briefly on PBS around election time to take a stab at making us smarter.

The president and many others have harped on the necessity for American STEM education to rise against the "competition." (STEM= science Technology, Engineering, and Math.) All well and good, but what about education in citizenship and the arts of persuasion and deliberation, arts that are too often seen as merely species of public relations or advertizing? Until we honor these arts as something beyond marketing talents, we will continue to accept this image of ourselves as consumers of products rather than citizens who long to be addressed as beings with brains, not just as creatures with fears and mere appetites that must be satisfied, beings who when asked "Are you better off than you were four years ago," respond by saying: "That all depends on what you mean by 'better'"

Now THAT'S a conversation starter in a landscape of glib conversation and dialogue stoppers.

Jonathan Bernstein

Danielle, what you seem to be saying is a variant of the oft-repeated question, "Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?" Inside the Beltway USED to be all about compromise and favor-trading. Starting while GW Bush in office, and accelerating during Obama's term, Congressional leadership seems far more interested in being right, rhetorically, which results in both parties being obstinate to the point of damaging the country. Hence the incredibly low level of public confidence in Congress -- the last figure I saw was 16% in favor of their overall performance -- or approx. 1/3 the level of public satisfaction expressed about the president. It isn't Obama or Romney who's going to make the difference, it's getting people to return to the fine art of compromise for the sake of forward progress.

Arnie Rosner


Its not election dysfunction that is the problem. And as a member of POGO you know it.

It is a matter of truth. It is a matter of honesty. It is a matter of integrity and it is a matter of morality.

When the team at POGO is ready to join the rest of the human race in this respect, please feel free to call me. I will be happy to support your efforts.

A previous supporter.


Available 24/7 - Defending freedom has become a full-time job!


Thank you for your right on thoughts, I agree and would love to see a country united and non partisan again, being an old geezer I have seen "my way or the highway" way too many times,If we get rid of Corporations are people and get rid of PACS that show me the money you get what ever you want and have representatives and senators who do not receive lifetime benefits for serving one term, and yet deny the people who voted them into office the same benefits, we have to get back on track, Oh and stop FIGHTING USELESS STUPID WARS NOW

Alicia Alvarado

Wonderfully said. Thank you Danielle!!

Mara Mellstrom

You rock. Go POGO!

Barbara Dahms

I am so proud of Gov. Christie and Pres. Obama. Before Irene I couldn't stand Chris Christie. My admiration for his handling of his job during that storm grew considerably. Now with Sandy he has completed his transformation into an ideal government leader. Of course Obama already had my great admiration.
Thank you to both of them for publicly acknowledging what's really important in this life...taking care of those who need our care.


thank you for the thoughtful and insightful letter. i have been accepted to grad school so i will be completing work i began years ago to end racism and democratize the republic.

we certainly have the resources, capabilities and perhaps greatest the desire to more effectively work together.

as a democratic peoples subject to the machinations of mandated republican states (art IV, sec IV us constitution) i feel our only real hope and salvation is to work together.

my proposal - at random select from all registered voter citizens to fill all elective, appointive, political civil service positions. keeping the salaries/benefits in place, rotate every two years to serve on all levels of governance-local/regional/state/federal in all executive, legislative, judicial functions with no concurrent or recurrent terms. i believe and support direct participatory democracy and this i see as the way to achieve it with the population we have.

thank you for the wonderfullly insightful correspondence

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