For the past twenty years, the political climate in the United States has become more and more rancorous and the partisan divide has become sharper. We are polarized on the left and right. The word compromise has become a dirty word in politics and both sides share in the blame for what is happening.
The Tea Party began as a group of concerned citizens who felt the growing deficit was a threat to our long-term security and economic health. They were correct but it fell on deaf ears in the halls of government. They organized and marched to Washington demanding that Congress listen to them. When you looked at them they were average middle Americans and came from around the nation. But as the movement grew people on the fringe of the political right began to attach themselves and the movement took on an uglier side. Racism began to creep into the debate and immigration became one of their key issues. They started pointing out anyone that did not look like them as the enemy. The movement morphed from one that was upset about the deficit to one that absorbed all kinds of ideas from the right. What it became is what the media began to refer to as the Alt-Right.
On the left, there was a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo in the Democrat party. The instigators of this movement saw its birth in the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. Most of these people were young socialists who demanded a redistribution of wealth in this country and basically wanted the government to take care of everyone. They set up camps in major cities and the authorities gave them leeway which only served to legitimize their demands with a larger audience. As their movement grew you saw the Antifa people begin to take over. They were much more aggressive and believed that violence was an acceptable response to anything they disagreed within society.
The media shares some of the blame because with the 24-hour news cycle they had ample time available to cover all of these activities. Depending on the news channel that you watched you found reinforcement of your own ideas. On Fox they praised the efforts on the right and on channels like MSNBC they lauded the movement on the left. Politicians began to buy into this concept and made their own comments on the media outlets they disagreed with, or in reality, the media outlets that dared to disagree with them.
On campuses around the nation we saw the rhetoric become increasingly shrill and the basic tenet of our Founding Fathers, free speech, was under attack. Liberal professors and students began demanding that anyone that did not speak their language be banned from speaking. We witnessed students demanding that their campuses be “safe zones” where nobody could say anything that might offend them. Speakers were threatened with violence and University Presidents were forced to rescind invitations. Prominent speakers such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were forced to withdraw as commencement speakers. No longer were universities and colleges bastions of intellectual discussion and a laboratory for the exchange of ideas. They were becoming monolithic centers for control of speech and thought.
Social media is another form of communicating that has taken a turn for the worse. President Trump’s use of Twitter has not produced anything of value to the discussion and only serves to increase the rancor. On Facebook normal everyday citizens seem compelled to vent their anger and either post disparaging articles they have scoured the Internet to find or write harsh sounding posts against anyone they disagree with. Newspapers are now online and each article has a comments section open to the reading public. The level of anger on these sites has reached a crescendo of noise that is all but drowned out any reasonable discussion
During the term of President Obama’s administration, there were some on the right who said some outrageous things. They accused him of all sorts of things and only served to heighten the angst by some on the right. This has been taken to a whole new level by the left in their opposition to Trump. It is becoming obvious that they will consider nothing out of bounds and they are urged on by politicians on the left. Many seem to cheer when Congresswoman Maxine Waters boasts that she “will take out Donald Trump” and for anyone to pretend they do not comprehend what she means is disingenuous. Others like Elizabeth Warren have openly called for total resistance to Donald Trump’s administration.
Only a few months ago we had a supporter of Bernie Sanders stalk Republicans practicing for a Congressional baseball game. He opened fire on them and severely wounded the House Whip, Steve Scalise (R-LA). This weekend we had another liberal physically attack Sen. Rand Paul who was at his home in Kentucky mowing his grass.
President Trump does not help the situation with his full attack mode of politics. Anytime someone disagrees with him or is critical of him he immediately takes to Twitter to attack them and call them names. It is beneath the Presidency to engage in such behavior. His constant barrage against the media begins to wear thin even with his supporters. Obama was no better with his constant attacks on Fox News.
All of this vitriolic rhetoric on both sides tends to embolden the people that are capable of committing despicable acts. It gives them a sense of duty that they have to respond. The entertainment industry joins in with this type of behavior as well. Watching Saturday Night Live and even the nightly shows on late TV you will find more and more political commentary and less humor. Some like Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Kimmel know no bounds on what they now believe is acceptable in public discourse.
In the Virginia governor’s race, we have seen both sides pandering to extreme limits. Ed Gillespie’s campaign would have you believe that his opponent, Ralph Northam, is supportive of pedophiles. Northam’s campaign hit what many believe is a new low in political ads with one depicting a pick-up truck with a Confederate flag driving through a neighborhood and young Latino boys tell each other to run for your life.
The sad truth is that adherents on both sides seem to cheer many of these people on. Nothing is out of bounds in the political debate of today. The ends seem to justify the means and winning is all the matters. If you cross some ethical line and still win then it was the right thing to do. At some point, the people whose only purpose seems to be to create divisions in our society need to realize the long-term damage they are doing to our nation. They exist on both sides of the political spectrum and seem to ignore the majority somewhere in the middle. Civility and calmer debate would be a positive for all of us and might actually allow our political leaders to do the unthinkable and come together and arrive at some compromises on the problems facing our nation.