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Editor's Letter: Political swordsmanship

National politics, always a rough game, has devolved into something meaner, more personal—a blood feud. The primary agenda now is to score points, and to damage the other party whenever possible.

A year ago, he was The One, and millions wept at his inauguration. Today, disappointment and doubt are stirring among even Barack Obama’s most fervent supporters, while his opponents feel a rising sense of glee: The gifted politician they feared might dominate national politics for eight years is mortal after all. But whatever you might think of Obama, it was inevitable that the realities of the presidency would strip him of his halo. In this era, the bipartisanship he hoped to forge was never within his reach, or anyone’s. National politics, always a rough game, has devolved into something meaner, more personal—a blood feud. The primary agenda now is to score points, and to damage the other party whenever possible. It may be good political theater, but the end result is that the United States—like California and several other large states—is becoming ungovernable.

Consider the health-care debacle of the past year. Now roll that same process forward, to other mammoth problems: The trillion-dollar annual budget deficit. The loss of millions of jobs that aren’t coming back. The catastrophic rise in Social Security and Medicare costs. Our dependence on foreign oil. Any minimal progress will require elected leaders to display real maturity and responsibility, and the voters to accept a large dose of pain. But regardless of which party controls the White House and Congress in coming years, the blood feud will go on; the prospects for maturity are dim. Americans, say the polls, don’t like the direction the country is headed, but headed there we are.

William Falk

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