OPINION: Politics has a partisan problem
February 11, 2017
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The most polarizing figure in recent American politics took the oath of office last month.
President Trump dominates the current political landscape, not only because of the enormous power he now wields, but also because of the unique rhetorical style with which he wields it. It’s not surprising that the fallout includes an increase in levels of partisanship, but it is disappointing.
This is a problem. America’s political discourse is on fire, and each cheap shot and insult made by politicians and pundits stokes the flames. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle; each iteration provokes an increasingly outraged response. Respectful disagreement seems almost non-existent.
The first hundred days aren’t even over yet, and already many people who voted for Trump are critical of his acts as president. His secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, proved so controversial that two Republican senators voted across party lines against her. At a time like this, it’s vital that we move beyond the simplistic notion that whoever disagrees with us is mentally and morally deficient.
Speaking from my experiences, there’s nothing that undermines a political position like partisanship. Too often, I see Republicans defend their positions by extolling the ineptitude and immorality of Democrats instead of supporting their own values. I no longer consider myself a Republican largely because of this tendency.
I can’t really say I’m a Democrat, either. Granted, I find arguments for progressive positions more persuasive. But the assumption that Trump supporters are deplorables is as prevalent as the assumption that liberals are ignorant. I get tired of hearing the hate.
The party-line vote to silence Elizabeth Warren seems to suggest that any real effort at government bipartisanship is a long way off. But that isn’t necessarily the goal or the only way to address this problem. The important thing, for now, is to listen to those we disagree with and to make an effort to understand their concerns.
If there was ever a time to disagree and to argue with passion, it’s now. But if there was ever a time to scream insults and demean those we disagree with, that time has passed.
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