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A bridge too far: An oddly common theme in politics

By Greg Dick, dickgr@miamioh.edu

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards bridges? Wait, that's not right - but it might as well be. Over the last year bridges - metaphorical, imaginary and even literal - have somehow become a key part of our national conversation.

First, there was "bridge-gate" and that whole mess about inconvenient traffic cones appearing on the Fort Lee Bridge. And after a years' worth of investigating, it's pretty clear the real scandal was not traffic related at all. Instead, it was about the insistence of the media to provide extended coverage of a faux scandal for the sake of slinging mud at a popular Republican.

Not exactly the definition of bridge building.

Then there was that time Zack Beauchamp, one of the "smartest thinkers" over at Vox, tried to build his own bridge, even if it was imaginary. In his article, "11 crucial facts to understand the Israel-Gaza crisis," Beauchamp fabricated the existence of a bridge connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. No seriously, he actually wrote that there was a bridge connecting the two territories and that Israel, like Governor Chris Christie, limited its traffic.

In Montana, when it was discovered that John Walsh borrowed (or "bridged the gap") while writing his thesis, the dude himself, Jeff Bridges, was one of the names rumored to be a replacement candidate for Walsh. Even though we didn't end up with "Bridges for Montana," it doesn't mean there are not other bridges involved in electoral politics.

Super PACs love bridges, too. Just ask the progressive American Bridge PAC, committed to showing how independent expenditures can save our democracy - I mean build a bridge to the future. Disclaimer: as a matter of personal preference I tend to favor non-bridge PAC names like "Cats for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" and "Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy."

We haven't even started talking about the best kind of bridges, the ones appearing in MSNBC's "lean forward" ad campaign. The left-leaning cable news network loves bridges and they're not afraid to have Rachel Maddow and Al Sharpton express that love. In their over-the-top ads, the network hosts rant and rave about the state of the country while appearing in front of the Hoover Dam Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge.

And lastly, no recently-released book would be complete without a timely title. We have Rick Perlstein's latest in his series on the Republican Party and the modern American conservative movement, which is called "The Invisible Bridge."

So after all of this what are we left with? I don't know. We haven't bridged the gap, built new bridges or even helped to elevate the equally cliché "national conversation." It seems like it's all just a bridge too far. Maybe we should just cool it on the bridges this and bridges that for a while. But hey feel free to disagree, because you know "if you believe that, I've still got a bridge to sell you."

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