‘I’m Not Arguing, I’m Explaining Why I’m Right’: The Sorry State of Political Discourse in Today’s America
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The headline speaks to the reality of politics in today’s America. Where the real trouble begins is with each side pointing its finger at the various other sides–while accepting none of the blame.
Disagree? I’d bet a dollar that the second sentence alone ruffles a few feathers among some of us.
Nonetheless, the majority of Americans believe the tone and content of political discourse in the country have become more negative, less respectful, less fact-based, and less substantive in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center. But do we really need research or surveys to see the sorry state of political debate — which no longer exists — in today’s kill-or-be-killed political attacks?
After Joe Biden won the 2020 election, he promised “unity” and declared “a time to heal” in America. Instead, he immediately began to pit Americans against Americans along class, race, and political lines.
Today, President “Time to Heal” sneers at former President Donald Trump and “MAGA Republicans” as “semi-fascists” who threaten democracy and present a clear and present danger to America. While Trump calls America’s most popular governor “Ron DeSanctimonious,” and bloviates that he “made DeSantis,” who otherwise is a mediocre governor, at best.
Never-Trumper conservatives accuse Always-Trumper loyalists of leading the country to defeat, while Trump and his loyalists reinvented the acronym “RINO” to mean — in their minds — any conservative who fails to walk lockstep with The Donald. On the other side of the aisle, radical leftists in Congress blast “moderate” Democrats (which no longer exist) for not being radical enough, while the few remaining sensible Democrats return fire, blaming the leftists for forcing the Democrat Party too far to the left.
The list goes on.
The above realities have combined to turn social media into a cesspool where unsubstantiated “facts” and unethical clickbait sites are quoted or linked — by all sides — as the discourse has been purposely degraded and become more ridiculous and predictable.
While a two-party system is intentionally adversarial by design, when it functions properly, it also embraces compromise. Yet today’s two-party system has led to the divided republic the Founders feared. George Washington warned against hyper-partisanship in his farewell address:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.
John Adams, Washington’s successor, similarly warned: “A division of the republic into two great parties is to be dreaded as the great political evil.” Amen.
The thing is, it’s not always been this way — and not all that long ago.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill could not have been more diametrically opposed, politically. Reagan was a staunch, limited-government conservative, while O’Neill was a classic Boston liberal. While they went after one another in the press on a regular basis, these “odd bedfellows” learned to compromise, and remained friends until O’Neill’s death in 1994.
Those days are long over in our nation’s capital.
As my headline suggests, today’s political types — whether they walk the halls of Congress or emotionally pound out commentary on their keyboards — largely refuse to listen to positions different from their own, instead choosing to berate “the other side” with name-calling and personal attacks for the audacity of disagreeing. Talking at someone is alive and well, while listening to someone— if only for the purpose of trying to understand beliefs contrary to one’s own — continues to be a dying skill; intentionally so.
As a constitutional conservative, I see evidence on a daily basis that the warnings of both Washington and Adams have come to fruition. As conservatives, we rightly blame the metastasizing radical ideologies and policies of the left that now infect public education and are hellbent on indoctrinating America’s children with revisionist history, immorality, and a belief that white America is by nature, “systemically racist.”
We see the immoral hypocrisy of the Democrat Party’s staunch support of on-demand abortion, irreversible “gender-affirming” surgery, and males kicking the hell out of females at women’s sporting events.
But we also see a Republican Party divided against itself, with one side all but committed to burning the party to the ground as the 2024 election season draws nearer, while some on the other side continue to kowtow to the Democrats–as many in the party have done for years.
So, where are we headed? I don’t know — and neither do any of the pontificators who tell you they do.
But I do know this: If the GOP electorate doesn’t get its act together, and soon, 2024 is going to be a very bad year indeed, let alone the years that follow.