Recently there was an article published by Grant Callen titled “Can’t we debate without demonizing each other?” appeared in the Clarion Ledger. The following was my response to his article.
Your article speaks to a symptom of underlying problems which are a serious threat to our democracy. I am not sure just how we got to this point of extreme polarization but I believe that the following are major factors:
1) The Democratic and Republican parties have been hijacked by the far left and far right, respectively. This has resulted in people automatically supporting and voting labels such as conservative, liberal, Republican, Democratic, Trump, Biden, etc. Consequently, any reasonable consideration of the issues gets lost in this win/lose game mentality.
2) Donald Trump is a major contributor to the heighten coarseness in our political dialogue by his personal attacks on people who disagree with him. When he calls the minority leader of his own party "a dumb S.O.B.", the bar for political discourse cannot be set much lower.
3) The media has been irresponsible in sensationalizing this polarization. Objectivity and truth have been replaced by extreme bias and outright lies. And it gets worse since many people only watch, listen and read media which reinforce their existing polarized "labels". The internet is full of conspiracy theories and misinformation which pushes our polarization further to the left or right. The seriousness of this problem is illustrated by the cult behavior of many people including those in leadership positions.
4) Our educational system is not preparing people for responsible participation in a democratic system. Are we still requiring courses in civics, government and American History? Do people understand the federal system, the constitution and the role of the legislative, executive and judicial branches?
All of these factors, and probably others, are intertwined; reinforcing each other in creating a serious threat to our democracy. It is complicated and pervasive and unfortunately the prognosis for change is not good.