A whirlwind trip to Washington DC highlights the differences, and increasing similarities, between our systems.

Prez is tweeting on the other hand

My congressional friends spoke of the “toxicity” of Congress. The chasm between Republican and Democrat views and values after a nasty election campaign.

However, they are still more likely to cross party lines (and vote with their counterparts) than MPs in our rigid party system. Now the election is over, they are in “Lame Congress” territory, and talk revolves around the “fiscal cliff” - the potential economic impact of a series of tax increases, spending cuts to reduce the US budget deficit due at the start of next year.

It is variously described as a fiscal hill and fiscal slope and one suggested response is the fiscal bungee.

The malice of the 2012 primaries and election campaigns has left US politicos reeling. Most of all the conservative Republican Party which is re-assessing its appeal to women, the Latino community, the black electorate and minority groups.

The impact of the women’s vote in this campaign cannot be understated. The Democrat vote was assisted by offensive comments about rape and abortion by several Republican candidates.

Many people asked me about our Prime Minister’s misogyny speech. It went viral internationally but had special resonance during this period in US politics apparently.

Progressive Democrat congressman Dennis Kucinich described to me the Republican outbursts as “sinking like a dart in the heart of female voters”.

The media is considered largely responsible for the temperature of the current US political environment. The 24 hour news cycle means there is always a soundbite ripe for dissecting as well as too many opportunities for congressmen and women and candidates alike to have a platform. Sound familiar?

Social networking – Facebook and Twitter – are relentless, a phenomenon with which Australian MPs are accustomed.

In recent days, few have restrained themselves in offering their views on the tragic suicide of the London nurse (the most hardened views emanating from Greens’ MPs).

If that incident did not highlight the power and stretch of the media, I do not know what does. While pranks are a way of life for lighthearted commercial media surely there is one area off limits and that is hospitals?

I still remember coming around from surgery after an ectopic pregnancy to see a television report featuring an illustration of my cervix. I laugh now, but when you are dealing with health issues of public or other figures, just don’t go there.

The Chairman at beyondblue, Jeff Kennett, is right to counsel that it does little good to hound the people involved in this tragedy.

Instead we should all consider our behaviour and our parameters - for pranks or anything else for that matter.

It is sage advice for our MPs as much as anyone. Taunts about people’s family life, children (or lack of), or MPs describing each other as “bimbos” or “fools”, does little to enhance debate.

In the US Congress, there is at least a veneer of civility.

Colleagues “yield’ to their “honourable friends” and the tone of the debate – in the Capitol Building at least—is one to which we could aspire.

We could learn from their forebears. Just like President Bartlett in The West Wing episode “The Stormy Present”, when he seeks solace from Abraham Lincoln’s words: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.”

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

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    • Craig says:

      04:58am | 11/12/12

      From what I can see it is the media themselves doing the hounding of the DJs. The public is more concerned with holding Austereo’s board and management accountable for a series of ethical failures and ensuring that the broader media does not pursue such practices.

    • Gregg says:

      06:00am | 11/12/12

      What’s all this about Natasha?, not Despoja out for the destroya of our MPs fun and games is it?
      You do even get women without children serving it up no end if you listen closely and question time is usually just that, questions from one side evaded and from their own side being used to trumpet their own alleged goodness and berate the opposition, the sledging very much one way you could say.
      I suppose when it comes down to currying favour with particular groups and the more the merrier, that is what politics is all about, so unfortunately with too little thought for the longer term good of the country.

    • Pedro says:

      08:43am | 11/12/12

      Who wrote this article? What did they achieve? Did they ever have a “real” job?
      It’s hard not be bitter when served up some slop from someone who is still riding the gravy train.
      Natasha - you are memorable for wearing some Doc Martin shoes to Parly. That’s it. You initiated no legislation, you represented no constituents. You are as irrelevant as your party. Please go away.

    • shirley says:

      07:26am | 11/12/12

      Yes, Natasha we know that you think it a triumph that many years of Government social engineering has finally borne fruit. Yes, the U.S. election was primarily decided by the demographic changes in the U.S. Yes, mass immigration from third world countries and a high birth rate among minorities has made the former U.S. almost unrecognisable. Yes, it has created a culture of welfare dependency and minority identity above national identity that guarantees victory to any party willing to pamper to this.
      Clearly Natasha you support mass third world immigration and multiculturalism. You never miss an opportunity to tell us so. You seem to want Australia to follow the U.S. But why is it fair to displace the cultural majority by mass immigration? Why will this produce a better society? Why is that just? And if utopian multi-culti rainbow U.S. nation is so wonderful why are all the real world signs pointing the other way? Poor economy? Routine gun violence? Terrorist threats? Racial disharmony? Depression? Obesity? Drug abuse? Single parent families? Is this what you want for Australia? Sadly, I think your answer may be yes, so long as the ALP is in office. 

      Please don’t send me any more narcissistic postcards. No more tired gender wars. Its a dowdy look nowadays Natasha.

    • SZF says:

      08:32am | 11/12/12


    • andye says:

      10:22am | 11/12/12

      @shirley: “Yes, mass immigration from third world countries and a high birth rate among minorities has made the former U.S. almost unrecognisable. Yes, it has created a culture of welfare dependency and minority identity above national identity that guarantees victory to any party willing to pamper to this. “

      This is why your guys lost. Positioning yourself as the party of white hegemony. After all, it is selfish welfare dependent foreign types that voted for the socialist secret-muslim guy just to get more welfare, right?

      Hahaha. Keep losing.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      11:04am | 11/12/12

      That’s pretty much the gist of it andye.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      11:32am | 11/12/12

      @shirley, get over it. They’ve come, they’ve invaded, your team lost and their’s won, just deal with it. That’s the white-line when taking over a country and that country complains right?

      Honestly I love the way people get there and pull out these tough lines and then complain when the same thing happens to them.

      Based on your comment, you differ slightly from the other right-wingers, you admit that Obama won based on the majority and not the minority.

    • Bill says:

      08:41am | 11/12/12

      Where is the party you used to lead, Natasha?

      Oh that’s right. It was voted out of existence.

    • ronny jonny says:

      09:30am | 11/12/12

      That would have to be one of the most vague, pointless and irrelevant articles I’ve ever read. Bit like the Democrats were.

    • subotic says:

      09:49am | 11/12/12

      Aaaah Natasha, that stalwart supporter of of forced Voter Registration, and self admitted believer that Australian politics is a lost cause.


      Talk about keeping the bastards honest, right?

    • Margret says:

      09:58am | 11/12/12

      “ Re: Gillard speech that went viral I must admit firstly I am not a fan of Gillard, and secondly her speech ( The Masogyny Speech ) did not sit well with me as a women.Firstly the Opposition had every right to be asking the questions. Secondly the PM should have answered them. If women think that any time they are in a sticky situation and all they have to do, is to shut men up, is call on the Mosogyny card, I say shame on you PM. So in a sence Gillard has said to all the young girls, if you can’t get to the top, because of the Glass Ceiling, call the men Masogynists.If you don’t want to answer the difficult questions call the men Masogynists. If your just not good enough call men Masogynists. I posted this comment this morning on Daily Life a section in the SMH a proudly female bias website…It was rejected,because they do not like the voice of a strong women. With a different opnion.

    • ronny jonny says:

      10:38am | 11/12/12

      ....and terrible spelling.

    • Margret says:

      12:15pm | 11/12/12

      Ahh yes misogynist, and opinion…sorry old boy, forgot to spell check.

    • ronny jonny says:

      02:26pm | 11/12/12

      Perfectly ok, I am just being a smart arse. Sorry about that..
      Did you know that your name is misspelt as well?

    • Esteban says:

      12:04pm | 11/12/12

      It was not clear to me from reading the article if Natasha Stott depoja thought it was a good thing or a bad thing that the US election was decided
      to some extent on race and gender.

      Sure they have a fiscal cliff and a debt ceiling to worry about but the main thing is that they be nice to each other during the political debate.

    • embracedmadness says:

      12:56pm | 11/12/12

      What’s happened to Nossy?

    • Pedro says:

      02:26pm | 11/12/12

      Took her bat ball and pension and went home to live off the poor

    • John Torkildsen says:

      05:11pm | 11/12/12

      Hope you are enjoying your vast tax payer funded retirement.
      Never worked a day in your life you old Marxist crackpot.


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