A Hill Talk Editorial: Civility in American politics must be restored

It doesn’t matter if it’s the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, the NFL national anthem saga or a debate about a wall along the U.S. southern border: Identity politics is more prevalent now than at almost any time in American history, causing a toxic political climate in Washington.

In our current hyper-polarized, ultra-partisan politics fueled by a 24-hour news cycle, pumpkin spice lattes and constant social media, it’s no wonder people are so tightly wound. Social media has acted as an accelerant, adding to the inferno of political divisiveness.

If one has a pulse and watches the news, it’s hard not to form some kind of opinion. The silver lining is that we can say without a doubt Americans are very passionate and care about the direction our country is headed.

Too often and to the detriment of us all, the crazies on the fringes of the political spectrum are the ones who end up getting all of the attention. The truth is we all have that crazy drunken uncle or an emotionally unbalanced sibling. One would never want someone judging someone’s entire family based on that one individual member.

It’s the same in American politics. Extremists on both sides represent only a small table under the massive tent of the Republican and Democratic parties. One wouldn’t know it by watching the nightly news, but a majority of Americans are reasonable people tired of the incessant drip of decay in civility.

The internet culture has us all perpetually looped into this uber aggressive climate.  We do not have to fight every person that disagrees with us. We don’t have to belittle those with different views. If we speak like adults rather than condescending partisans America will be better off.

This is our choice. Be the change you want to see or just be another one of the folks constantly fanning the flames of the fire. Just because one can win an argument, does not make arguing necessary in itself.

Internet trolls need virtual confrontations. So, cut off the argument and you’re one step closer to a happier life.

The “Maxine Waters doctrine” of public harassment of elected officials is not helpful, for example. In a perfect world, people can engage in civil discourse, but still treat each other with respect and professionalism.

Instead, we are instructed by our elected leaders to chase members of the opposite party out of restaurants publicly confront those who sit on the opposite side of the political fence.  Unsubstantiated claims from anonymous sources are now acceptable as long as the end justifies the means.

It is a culture of corruption on Capitol Hill sensationalized by a willing partner in the media. What can one do? Not much, but avoid taking the bait in the first place. Avoiding useless political arguments will lessen stress levels and save time otherwise spent arguing with an 8th grade girlfriend’s dad on Facebook, for example.

At the end of the day, Americans have more in common than can ever separate us. If one remembers nothing else, remember this: If an interaction does not begin with respect, one cannot possibly expect it to end with respect.

Conservatives, liberals, people of all races, colors, creeds and sexual orientations make up this beautiful tapestry that is America and we all require respectful interactions.  So, forgive aunt Carrol for voting for Trump. Move on from the heated exchange you had with your sister in Philadelphia about the NFL national anthem debate. Move on.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  Like it or hate it, we are all in this house together, let’s make the best of it.