An antidote for political demagoguery

People often complain that our consumer culture tries to jump-start the Christmas season too early — right after Halloween. This year, however, I did the same thing and began listening to Christmas carols two months ago — right after the political conventions.

Singing “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” and “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” along with Pandora radio was my antidote to an overdose of political demagoguery, mud-slinging, attack ads and endless commentary.

It’s hard to get into a yelling match with your spouse about Obamacare or Medicare or any other care when “Joy to the World” is blasting out of the speakers.

Writing in the New York Daily News about the psychic liberation that comes after Election Day, columnist David Hinckley said, “For a few brief shining hours, the votes of civilians count more than the trillions of words fired at us for the last 18 months by every commentator, host and analyst with a working radio or TV microphone. ... Be honest here: No matter how much you love politics, no matter how invested you are in any candidate or party, couldn’t you use a few minutes of quiet? Even the Lord rested on the seventh day.”

So if we endured 18 months of that torment, I’m good with four months of yuletide.

Now that the election is over, I feel like a new man, liberated and able to love my neighbor again instead of wallowing in anger and acrimony, waiting to be dragged into another political discussion I don’t care about. Even better, we can stop ridiculing our family members and co-workers for their totally insane views.

A poll by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and the Knights of Columbus found that almost eight in 10 Americans were “frustrated” with the tone in politics today, that 74% believe campaigns have gotten more negative, and that 56% thought “campaigns are mostly uncivil and disrespectful.”

Politics brings out the worst in people. If we put a fraction of the fervor, money and time into helping our neighbor that we put into this election, the world would be a better place. We wouldn’t need politicians. There would be Nirvana, Utopia, Heaven on Earth, a chicken in every pot, free pretzels and honey roasted peanuts at happy hour.

The sad irony is politics has shown a chronic inability to cure what ails America, which Jimmy Carter once described as a “spiritual malaise.” And that view got him laughed out of Washington.

Things are even worse now, with “hyper-partisan politics” that can’t remedy the national debt, let alone cure unemployment. I’ve often wondered what made this country great. Was it the spirit of compromise or gridlock? If it’s gridlock, we can look forward to four more years, so hold on tight to your seats because we’re going nowhere fast.

Maybe Thoreau was right: That government is best which governs least.

When I look at the last two administrations, Republican and Democratic, I ask myself whether I was better off after they ended than when they began. The answer is I wasn’t better off, which means to say I’ve learned to adhere to a time-honored principle — expect the worst.

So instead of listening to promises and prognostications about where we’re headed, I choose to exercise my constitutionally guaranteed right to plug in my earphones and listen to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” So you better watch out ... and you better not pout.

Joe Pisani can be reached at