Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Why All the Political Vitriol?

Tonight I was speaking with the president of the local Republican Women’s League (I think that’s their name – sorry, Tammy) and we started talking about how politics in America have become exponentially more incendiary over the last decade or so. As we were talking, an explanation that has been wandering the space in my head finally coalesced into words.

Because of the increasing presence of the government in our lives, it touches upon more and more issues that each individual holds dear. This includes our ethical code, whether it be based off of a system of faith, tradition, self-study, indoctrination, or some combination thereof. Abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, affirmative action, separation of church and state, and homosexual rights are all hot-button issues closely related to one’s moral code, and the government is increasingly tied up in these issues. The major political parties have taken sides on each issue and, based off of our moral code, we tend to side with the party that most closely represents our own beliefs. Thus, our political party extends beyond who sets various policies into an extension of our own moral code. Because of this, when someone else attacks “our” party, they are effectively attacking our own ethical system.

Another cause of the increased hostility is the strengthening view by each side that the other is corrupt and will stop at nothing to further their own power and political agenda. The 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida was part consequence, part cause, and part catalyst of this belief. Rumors and “common knowledge”, sometimes backed by evidence, abound within each party about the opposing party.

The Supreme Court is yet another divisive factor. Up to three justices could retire within the next four years. The sitting president has the power to appoint successors to these justices. With the possibility of overturning such rulings as Roe vs. Wade and the many cases involving separation of church and state and affirmative action, the choice of replacements is critical to both sides.

Regardless of whether I’ve accurately pointed out the causes for the increased enmity between Republicans/conservatives and Democrats/liberals, this divide exists and continues to spread expand its ill feelings and even violence. The question that should concern us at this point is, where will it end?


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