The political process is so often lamented, that the parties have become complacent and political rhetoric is in the gutter. We blame the media, we blame human nature and those who manipulate it, we blame ideologues and ideologies. This is taken as a failure of democracy and fosters cynicism, but I think another more important lesson can be drawn from it. While there are certain failures that need addressing from time to time, and there's problems with corruption and incompetency, most of the time things run quite smoothly. The debate over gay marriage for example takes place because those fundamental issues are pretty well taken care of. While it might be some form of distraction, in part it's a reflection of the success of a healthy society.
Though it is a bit of a concern just how polemic and divisive such topics can be. Things are running more smoothly than in any time in history, yet we're almost ready to rip out each other's throat over such issues!