Rush Limbaugh, father of American "Political Bigotry".
Few things bother me more than bigotry. When people think of bigotry, what typically comes to mind is racism or homophobia, or, as I’ve noted in recent posts, bigotry based on religious belief. I think we have a relatively “new” form of bigotry that is perhaps as equally destructive…”political bigotry”.
Politics has always had a nasty side. But in my lifetime (I’m 45), is there any question that basic civility in politics has been in decline? The current GOP has adopted intolerance of Democrats to the point that it’s seemingly their only party platform, as the party of “no” seemingly is incapable of coming up with a coherent strategy for governing other than opposing ANYTHING proposed or done by Democrats. Partisanship obviously isn’t unique to the GOP, as Democrats are sometimes just as guilty (although they haven’t honed inter-party hatred to the fine edge that the GOP has). But…
During my lifetime, and from my personal perception, it seems that start of the decline in civility was during the Clinton years. In Congress you had Newt Gingrich and fellow Republicans hell-bent on trying to personally destroy the Clinton administration. On the airwaves, Rush Limbaugh started the now well-established tradition for talking heads to whip up hatred towards Democrats and liberals. Over time, the pure HATRED towards other political groups has led to two parties that refuse to cooperate on even the most basic and uncontroversial pieces of legislation. Gridlock is now the standard in American politics, where every piece of legislation is considered more for the political implications and the next election, rather than on its merits for improving the lives of Americans.
What bothers me the most, however, is how inter-party battles have spilled over into the American mainstream. The ridiculous battles, the COMPLETE lack of civility now seen in American politics has spilled over into the lives of everyday Americans, and how we treat each other. Inter-party battles between the GOP and Democrats, the pure HATRED being spouted on the airwaves on completely one-sided political shows, have infiltrated the lives of Americans to such a degree that the American people themselves are seemingly at war with each other.
America has become a place where “political bigotry” has defined us just as much as has discrimination based on race, religion, or sexual preference.
Given an individual person’s religion, place of work, and background, the people we associate with often DO have similar political beliefs. Just because of where you end up in life, chances are that for many of us, our friends and colleagues, overall, are more likely to have political beliefs similar to your own. That’s the case for me. Despite being in a very “red” state, most of my friends and colleagues are relatively liberal, just because of my background and where I work. However, I also have friends and colleagues who have very different political beliefs, and we’ve managed to remain friends and colleagues without killing each other.
It seems, however, that for an increasing number of Americans, that simply isn’t an option. Given all the pure hatred that has infiltrated American politics (and again, Repubs, sorry, you get most of the blame here), for substantial numbers of Americans, simple CIVILITY towards someone from the “other” party isn’t an option.
Look at how Republicans use the term “liberal” as if it’s an insult, hurled with as much venom at another human being as someone might use a traditional curse word. If someone sits around and listens to a Rush Limbaugh for day after day, week after week, year after year, is it any wonder how indoctrinated many in the general public have become in treating the “other” party as the enemy? It’s to the point where a person’s political beliefs are EVERY BIT as much of a grounds for bigotry, for hateful or discriminatory treatment, as other characteristics that make people different.
The same lack of civility, the same lack of cooperation that’s seen in Congress or during any American election is now a part of many Americans’ daily lives. We’ve become a country where one group no longer considers the other real “Americans”, simply due to political persuasion. It’s an ugly trend. Despite what some would have you believe (Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, or ANYONE on Fox “News” come to mind), you CAN disagree with someone and still treat them with civility.