Our political system often reminds me of a marriage. The Republicans and Democrats are married. They are in it together and an effective marriage depends on compromise and collaboration because two people will never want exactly the same thing.
Every four years there’s a big fight and the winner gets to set the priorities of the couple for the next 4 years.
In a marriage, when you fight you have to fight knowing that a) you are ultimately on the same team, and b) you ultimately need to make peace and work together for the good of the family (the electorate) and the marriage (good governance).
If you remember these two things you fight with civility and always attempt to maintain respect. You don’t break certain rules. You don’t fight to kill. You don’t raise the stakes with too much aggression because this will lead to wounds that may bring retaliation and make peacemaking harder.
When disrespect, rudeness, excessive aggression, violence and threats of violence, personal insults, and all decency and decorum goes out the window, at best you end up in a divorce, at worst you end up in a war of the roses, a battle to the death, which is obviously bad for the family and likely the end of the marriage.
These divisions lead to each spouse taking actions that are in their selfish interests but which compromise the relationship. And at some point, all hell breaks lose unless someone finds a way to make peace.
Unfortunately there are no marriage counselors, no priests to turn to. You have to be the adults in the room and police yourselves or else risk creating divisions that are impossible to overcome.
To me, that is the tragedy of the last 8 years and this last election. We’ve allowed toxic rhetoric and disrespect and extreme animus, and hateful rhetoric and behavior to become almost normal. This has destroyed our trust in one another and people aren’t looking for ways to make peace, we’re looking for ways to score points and win short term battles.
And that we mostly interact through an online filter is just driving us further and further apart.
The only way out is mutual respect, empathy and understanding which are critical to rebuilding trust. But these things are in short supply and I’m not sure I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Honestly, at times I don’t even see the fucking tunnel anymore.
But I try to remember that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice. And I try to have hope that decent people on both sides will come to their senses and demand civility and will come together to find common solutions and won’t cave in to the seductive appeals of bigotry, blame of others and defensiveness. How much I’d wager this is a likely outcome depends on my mood each day and how much negativity I’ve had to deal with. But I still have hope.