I have a pet theory that there are four levels of political discourse. The first, agree to disagree, seems to have disappeared. It used to be that politicians could be strongly opposed to the other’s ideas and yet remain cordial. Ted Kennedy was a very strong advocate for his point of view and yet Republicans were some of his closest friends.
These days we mainly operate at level two, you’re a bad person. Each side views the other as not just wrong but full of personal flaws. I think this is the result of a deepening political divide and the creation of hostile media outlets like talk radio and blogs. Everyone is guilty but I would like to single out Obama and the Tea Party right. Obama promised to be a post partisan president but has turned out to be hyperpartisan. The Tea Party folks believe that compromise is repugnant and anyone who doesn’t agree with them 100% of the time is their enemy.
We are also seeing level three, you’re evil. Donald Trump and many of his opponents are often at this level. It can lead to violence as we have seen with the anti-Trump demonstrations.
Level four, you should die, was once limited to a few demented individuals. Now we are seeing it in the dispute between black people and the police. We have seen a spike in police shootings and just witnessed the horror of the ambush in Dallas. Elements in groups like Black Lives Matter fan the flames of hate and encourage violence.
It is almost certain that we will continue to have divided government. Nothing can be accomplished unless people work together. We should all tone down the rhetoric and condemn levels three and four behavior no matter the source.