The State of Political Discourse

May 9, 2012 in Politics and Current Events | Comments (0)

Ever see the movie My Cousin Vinny?  It's a hilarious film from 1992 featuring Joe Pesci as a street-wise, but bumbling lawyer.  If you haven't seen it, stop reading this post and go watch it.  I'll wait.

Ok, now that you've seen the movie you'll remember the classic scene where Vinny gives his epic opening statement to the court.  In case it's been a while, let me refresh your memory.

Slick-haired prosecutor Jim Trotter spends about two minutes of air time laying down a strong opening statement for his case.  He tells the jury that he is certain the defendants are guilty and the he will present them with comprehensive evidence which will convince them of this fact as well.  He tells them they'll hear from three eye-witnesses, see crime scene photos, and even be presented with the defendants own confession.  His address is delivered with polish, professionalism, and just a dash of used-car-salesman thrown in for good measure.  He's articulate, animated, and clearly intelligent, though the writers do make sure he mispronounces a word here and there so you don't forget he's a hick from backwater Alabama.

Meanwhile, Vinny is snoring at his desk.  When the judge calls for his opening statement, his client punches him in the side to wake him, and he groggily makes his way to the jury box and says, "Uh… everything that guy just said is bullsh*t." The viewers' reaction at this point is to cheer and laugh.  The scrappy underdog got a good zinger in on the sleazy Establishment-type. 

You see, by this point we've been conditioned to like Vinny and Dislike Trotter.  Vinny is the dynamic, lovable protagonist and Trotter is the one-dimensional obstacle standing between him and his moment of greatness. 

The problem is that Vinny is the one in the wrong here.  Trotter did everything right.  He played by the rules.  He presented his argument well.  He was erudite and concise.  He was compelling.  His argument was complete and sound. 

Vinny was the slacker.  He was relying on emotion rather than intellect, and pandered to the lowest common denominator of humanity- vulgar mockery.

I realized today, as I listened to a podcast in which two people had a political debate, that scene poignantly typifies the current state of political discourse in the US. 

One side plays by the rules; creates sound arguments based on reason, intellect and evidence.  One side takes the time and effort to present itself in a polished and professional manner.  The other side relies on vulgar mockery and raw emotion.

I'll let you decide who is who.