I was on Instagram recently and one of my friends from Missouri posted a picture of former first lady Barbara Bush with this caption: “I can’t imagine how painful her life must have been, at times. When your husband and oldest son are U.S. presidents and your youngest son is a prominent political figure as well, it comes with the territory, but it still had to hurt. Can you imagine turning on the news and hearing someone speak of your child like people speak of political figures?”
Needless to say, it was very thought-provoking — and in this age of venomous political partisanship, very true.
American politics has become very caustic over the last few years on both ends of the spectrum.
The latest battle in the Cold Civil War took place on April 28 when Michelle Wolf was the featured entertainer at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and delivered a scathing monologue, directed in part at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Wolf called Sanders a liar and an Uncle Tom while comparing her to a character in The Handmaid’s Tale, a Hulu drama set in a dystopian future where women are severely repressed. Wolf also directed comedic, but vicious, criticism at Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway and at President Donald Trump, who did not attend the event.
If Wolf was the only person to inject such a strong dose of venom into the American political conversation, it would be bad enough. Sadly, her monologue is just the latest example in what has become a pattern in American politics by both Democrats and Republicans.
Part of the problem with our political process today is that we often have little respect for those who disagree with us. I was listening to a talk show in March when a caller said that he disliked Roseanne because it “legitimizes deplorables,” referencing Hillary Clinton’s generalization of Trump supporters from the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Even if a person dislikes the politics and the personality of the president, to write off almost 63 million Trump voters as racists, homophobes and fascists is going way too far — and it contributes to the growing division in our country. After all, who wants to even say hello to someone who is a racist, homophobic fascist — much less have any meaningful dialogue with them?
However, it’s not just Democrats and members of the left who have painted their opponents with the broad brush. In 2012, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney damaged his chances of defeating Barack Obama in the presidential race when he referred to many of his opponents as part of the “47 percent.”
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney said. “All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Again, even if a person dislikes the politics and the personality of the president — at that time, Barack Obama — to write off the millions who supported him as lazy, sponging moochers is going too far. After all, who wants to even say hello to a lazy bum who mooches off the taxpayers so he or she can do nothing all day but watch TV and drink beer, much less have any meaningful dialogue with them?
I moved to Nebraska in September 2015, just as the countdown to the Iowa caucuses was heating up. As a political aficionado, I enjoyed getting to meet many of the presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, including Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Martin O’Malley and the daughters of Bernie Sanders.
But along the way, I learned something: They are all human beings just like the rest of us. And I’ve always found it much harder to throw rocks at a living, breathing human being than at a TV set. Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, independent or whatever, we are all Americans and we are all in this together.
My Missouri friend closed his Instagram photo caption with these words: “That’s why when I speak of a (politician), regardless of their affiliation or party, I try to keep in mind that person has or had a Momma who loves/loved them very much, just like me. #humanity”
Words to live by.
(Mike Buhler is the community editor at the Powell Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)