Having a debate with your friends about political issues of the day used to be playful and engaging, with no one getting their feelings hurt. Those days are gone. The frustrations of political discourse have been building up in our daily lives since the early 2000’s and hit a serious crescendo when Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. Something happened in our country that caused most of us to pick sides with unrelenting harshness. Perhaps some part of it related to “we just elected our first black President”? It is interesting to me that parts of “white America” got pretty aggressive right about then. Remember birtherism? Who started that anyway? Some other factors to consider:
- The Bush war machine
- Great Recession
- Clinton fatigue
- Obama’s ACA
- McConnell obstruction
- Obama’s lost Supreme Court justice
- Executive orders
- Trump & Russia
- Wealth gap
- Hunter Biden
- Voter suppression
Perhaps both parties have been moving toward their fringes? Progressive vs Tea party. Democrats have been looking for modern day New Deal ideas. Republicans have doubled down on 2nd Amendment rights, immigration concerns, and trickle down economics. Whatever your pleasure, the divides have caused our discourse to become uncomfortable at best and downright abusive at worst.
I like to ask my Trump friends, how do you justify your vote with all of his moral flaws, misinformation, conspiracy theories, hate and division? Answer I usually get, “he lowered my taxes and the economy is great.” I generally follow with what in the economy has been great for you? Responses are “stock market is flying and oh yeah he eliminated all those regulations.” I ask, has all that been good for you? Response: “Uh, you know Democrats are socialists so I could never vote for them.” We never really get to the bottom of it. And when I press about Trump’s moral misgivings, my friends always come back to the Dems are the swamp. They want to give everything away and raise taxes. I try to engage about McConnell and the stolen Supreme Court pick and the legislation that is piling up on his desk. I generally get back, “so what, we are confirming conservative judges and preventing liberals from changing gun laws.” It’s exhausting.
Let’s be fair, I am difficult too. I am wrapped up in how immoral Trump is and how irresponsible McConnell and the Senate GOP have been. I don’t have patience for apologists that justify bad behavior with “my wallet is full” and “ I don’t want the government confiscating my arsenal.” I must admit, the economy has been good. The stock market has done well, and our tax rates are lower. I’ve benefited from all of that. But at what costs? I’d give back my tax break to pay others a little more. I am sensitive to the lack of progress on the minimum wage, ill conceived tariffs impacting farmers and manufacturing, and threatening to back out of commitments to world organizations like NATO or the WHO. Racism is alive and well. That bothers me. I believe in the climate threat, and I’m also worried about 21st century jobs, infrastructure, cost of education, and the wealth gap. Can we ever talk about this stuff without screaming and yelling? Isn’t there room for all of us in the solutions?
The reality is political conversation has become a winner take all affair. There is no compromise. No coming together. No one can agree to give an inch. The blame for that sits with our elected officials. That discourse starts with them. If a politician isn’t willing to call “bull#$*t” on foreign government interference, accept facts, be empathetic, or practice healing with a nation, then its going to be difficult to find common ground. I would submit that we don’t have to be okay with this. The resolution has always been in our hands. VOTE for change. Usher in a new era of political discourse. Either the parties accept that compromise is what people want, or consider extinction. Think back to Lincoln in the mid-1850’s. The Whigs became extinct. The Republican Party was born, and a “white” President ended slavery. Transformation is possible. It takes compromise. I am willing. Are you?