Editorial: The false politics of good vs evil
On Thursday, in homes and dining establishments across the country, families and friends will gather for Thanksgiving. And in a great number of those places, politics will be stricken from the list of topics eligible for dinner conversation.
We have many things to be thankful for, but such polarization that stops even loved ones from peacefully sharing their political views is not among them.
Admit it, you have a relative or a friend, or perhaps even a lot of them, you can't talk to about Trump, right?
There's no reasoning with them and no persuading them and not only that, there's no way to keep even a slight reference to Trump from leading to raised voices and hurt feelings. Right?
Of course, they're probably looking at you the same way: No persuading you; it's best just to tiptoe and to not go there.
And God forbid if someone should mention the words impeach or Schiff or Nunes!
Few of us ever knew much about Ukraine and for Thanksgiving dinner, we'll keep it that way.
So most of us arrive at the holiday table with a sort-of unspoken but widely understood armistice.
This, sadly, is no way for a republic to function. Government by the people is based on the notion that collectively, the people will make the wisest decisions in their own interests. But in order to do so, the people need to elevate their understanding of the options before them.
Civic debate is one of the ways we improve our decision-making. It's a crucial way we learn from each other.
But we don't debate these days. We don't examine problems and compare alternative solutions. We don't respect opposing points of view.
There was an intriguing article by McKay Coppins in The Atlantic a year ago that traced our incendiary politics to Newt Gingrich, who argued as far back as 1978 that politics is a "war for power" and should be treated that way.
"The goal," Coppins wrote, "was to reframe the boring policy debates in Washington as a national battle between good and evil, white hats versus black, a fight for the very soul of America."
Whether it all started with Gingrich is open to disagreement. Certainly, plenty of liberals frame debates contemptuously too, demonize opponents too.
But the origins of our current environment are less important than the ill health it represents.
To debunk an argument takes thought and reason.
To dismiss it by insulting the person making it takes only power. It wins an argument by fiat and diversion.
Worse, it wins an argument without ever examining it.
America needs to learn how to talk and listen again.