Political debate in the U.S. devolved into name calling long ago. Both sides are guilty of using the basest of personal attacks to appeal to the basest instincts of the electorate. But it is time for both parties to realize the long-term damage they are causing in their heedless, headlong rush to power.
America is divided pretty evenly between Democratic and Republican voters, as presidential election polls and results show. When one candidate says the other is completely and totally wrong, he or she is saying that candidate’s supporters are completely and totally wrong. And thus pointing a finger at half the country and saying, “If you’re with me, you have to believe that half of your friends and neighbors are completely and totally wrong.”
Reasonable people know that not to be true. My father and I often disagree about politics, but because we have different key issues that concern us. We agree fundamentally that America should be an inclusive country with a strong economy that provides a safe place for people to live, learn and succeed. And we both agree that the only way for that to happen is for reasonable people to work together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, not by rabid fear-mongering that turns everything upside down every four years.
But if we allowed ourselves to be swayed by the rhetoric of each campaign, and the commentators and news outlets who earn their money by perpetuating and exacerbating the conflict, Sunday lunch would become a shouting match.
The campaigns play on the same instincts that, taken to an extreme, turn soccer stadia into battlegrounds where zealots try to maim and even kill their neighbors, identical to them apart from the color of their scarves. And to the furthest extreme, these are the instincts that allow the rise of fascism.
I honestly don’t know how we will break this cycle. The political machines on both sides are refining their tactics every day, learning the marketing techniques refined by people like me, driven by the greatest profit and power motive the world has ever known. Maybe we need to be attacked by aliens to remember that we are one people who agree far more than we disagree.
In the meantime, I hope reasonable people around the country will remember that most of your friends, neighbors and co-workers don’t hate you because you pull a different lever in the voting booth. If we can show some tolerance and keep our minds open to the possibility of working together, maybe the political parties will follow our example.