How hatred became all the rage in our politics
These days, even the wearing — or not wearing — of a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19 can be viewed as a political act, another sign of what political scientists call “conflict extension.” That’s what happens when the partisan divide becomes so great that, when it comes to romance, single people won’t even date supporters of the opposite party.
Just about everyone I know can’t wait for the 2020 election campaign season to end. But, as we’ve seen in the past, the partisan sides are so entrenched by now — with activists, social media and other factors offering aid and comfort — that the tension is not likely to end that soon.
In the end, the future is up to us, the voters. The first step is to be aware of how deeply we have waded into the pool of partisanship and try to help one another find a safe and sane way back to more civil discourse.
Perhaps we have become too accustomed in today’s world to news-as-entertainment, politics-as-sport and serious issues treated like points on a score card. Our political system is hardly perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got. Changes need to come with careful deliberation, not just political reflexes.
That’s a big challenge, but it’s going to stay with us regardless of which side wins this coming election.
In some ways, this challenge reminds me of a troubled marriage. After occupying the same political house for a long time, couples sometimes take each other for granted. Flames of conflict can be fanned by others who may not always have our best interests in mind. At some point, we need to reintroduce ourselves to each other before we have to break up the house — or before somebody else breaks it up for us.
(E-mail Clarence Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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