Thursday, 02 July 2020 10:59

LETTER: Political disunity is a dangerous game

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To the editor:

We are stuck in a strange political moment. This strange moment may turn into a dangerous moment.

What am I referring to? Our immense political division.

Seemingly, there are very few items that we can agree on.

Right now, our two major political parties are pushing policies and rhetoric that aren’t inclusive.

Almost regardless of the policy, roughly half of the country reacts lethargically to the proposals.

Let’s take a deeper look at this.

Protests all over the country have erupted aiming to reform our police agencies. If there is a segment of our population that has no trust in our police, reform is absolutely necessary.

However, look at the framing of the conversation. Calls for “defunding the police” have run rampant. In most circumstances, defunding the police does not actually translate to literally defunding the police. It aims to move funding to a more community service approach. A laudable goal. But those people calling to “defund the police” are making a massive mistake.

How do you expect your opponents, who tend to favor law enforcement, to take calls to defund the police? It doesn’t take someone with a crystal ball to figure this one out.

A similar thing is in play for the notion of white privilege. How do you expect people who have very recent memories of the Great Recession to take the idea that somehow, they are privileged? Many people literally lost their jobs, saw their incomes plummet, and lost their homes. Again, no crystal ball needed. To make matters more complicated, surveys have been done showing that people’s views of white privilege change based on the wording of the white privilege question. See the below survey question from a Winthrop University poll.

“Half of the respondents were asked whether they believed that whites in America have ‘privileges’ that non-whites do not have, while the other half were asked if they believed that non-whites in America experience ‘barriers.’”

The “barriers” question resulted in 20 points higher agreement than the “privileges” question.

What does this mean? That phrasing affects the message. You can’t insinuate that parts of your own population should somehow feel guilty by asserting white privilege; they simply will refuse your proposals. The same goes for efforts to “defund the police.” The messages needs to be inclusive.

The right is on equally unstable footing.

American’s healthcare costs are far and away more expensive than other developed countries. Many millions of Americans lack basic healthcare. Yet Republicans are trying to overturn Obamacare in the Supreme Court, in the middle of a pandemic. Furthermore, a massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations was signed into law in 2017 by Trump and the Republican Congress. These optics are not good. To many Americans, the question becomes, “who are these people looking out for?” Because of this, many Americans simply cannot identify with Republican politics.

To make matters even worse, Trump won his presidency with three million less votes than Hillary Clinton. If it was a centerpiece of the Republican Party to be a party not-of-the- people, they are certainly succeeding. But strategically, this isn’t what they prefer and it isn’t good for them. For Republicans to continue to win elections, they must widen their appeal.

Now let’s make the case even worse: Imagine President Trump wins the 2020 election by squeaking out with the Electoral College and again losing the popular vote. This would mean that three out of the four Republican presidential victories of this century succeeded without the popular vote.

This will be absolutely detrimental. It will solidify the Republican Party as a minority party. Even worse, millions of Americans will suddenly lose faith in our system of government. We cannot let that happen.

It is important to remember that we are all Americans here. We all want what’s best for ourselves and our fellow Americans. We cannot ram our preferred polices down the throats of our fellow Americans. The optics are simply not good when major legislation passes with vanishing support from the other side.

Remember, we live in a representative democracy. In this system, reconciliation plays a major role. We aren’t enemies. We are fellow citizens and we need to start acting like it.

Alex Auman