Brushing Your Teeth

May 25th, 2012

Inspired by our divided and dysfunctional political system.


In their attempt, their opponents to crush,
Politicians encourage Americans, their teeth not to brush.


Republicans have traditionally been the party of the free market and fiscal responsibility (let’s leave aside the fact that the GOP has strayed from both those principles and posit that they will (hopefully) return to them some day). Democrats have traditionally been the party of the social safety net. Republicans have traditionally been the party of national defense, and Dems the party of peace.

For much of our history, political debate has been the back-and-forth between our two major parties about which of their specialties the country needs, with occasional policy position swaps (e.g., Democrats used to be the states rightists and Republicans the strong central government types). But through most of our history, members of the two parties, while disagreeing, have at least acknowledged that their adversary, while wrong, sought the nation’s best interest, or at least the best interest of the district or state which he or she represented.

That has changed in our modern politics, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s anti-government diatribes (“government IS the problem”) and Newt Gingrich’s politics of personal destruction (Newt pioneered and popularized the approach of attacking not just your opponent’s views, but also his character and patriotism).

Since then, it’s become increasingly popular for Congressional challengers to attack not only their opponent, but also the institution they seek to join. They “run againstWashington.” Many incumbents even attempt to do the same, attacking the institute of which they’re a part. And of course, the different braches of government attack and disparage each other. As a result, voters end up distrusting and disliking their government.

It’s as if a company which sold toothbrushes and toothpaste had two separate sets of ads. The toothpaste ads would attack the toothbrushes as ineffective, poorly made, and overpriced. The toothbrush ads would attack the toothpaste as creating cavities and containing poisonous chemicals. Both sets of ads would attack the company that made and sold them as being a horrible place run by thieves and murderers, making inferior products and cheating their customers.

How long would that company stay in business? How satisfied would its customers be?

The answer: not long, and not satisfied. And eventually, people would stop brushing their teeth.


Here’s a scene from South Park’s 1776 episode revealing the reason for America’s two-party duality (here’s the full episode; the revelation is at the 14:36” mark).

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