Political Tribalism And The Loss Of Decency [Opinion]

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In ages long since passed, politics served as a cerebral battleground in which Americans healthily jousted over the adoption of solutions which sought to alleviate the ailments that plagued a nation. The populace sat at their kitchen tables perusing the newspaper in the mornings, before ending the day by camping out in front of their television sets in dimly-lit living rooms, digesting the nightly news.

Bygone eras produced a well-informed citizenry, Americans molded by a lifetime of grueling experience and tempered by the regular consumption of objective information, all honed by an honest exchange of ideas. Encirclement by confirmation bias proved nearly impossible to achieve, and unashamedly lopsided shock jock political punditry simply didn’t sell. Ideology was malleable in the face of evidence and reason, and open confrontation with uncomfortable realities was unavoidable.

Politics has often been a mud-laden arena, a realm that readily lends itself to the generation of contentious ideological rivalries and boisterous verbal sparring. Partisan dueling, and occasional pointed aggression, has long been a staple of American politics, yet some semblance of decorum was observed during even the most ferociously-heated debates.

So much has changed, so far we’ve already regressed. A July story in the Washington Post reported on a member of the Nevada GOP publicly praising an article on Senator John McCain entitled “Please Just F—ing Die Already.” Further tumbling along the path of ethical decay, TIME reported that Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, planned to vote for Roy Moore despite believing the allegations of sexual assault by his numerous, and then teenage, accusers. Once, the appearance of such objectionable content was a rare occurrence, now it’s grotesquely common.

A woman holding a copy of the New York Daily News.
A woman stands outside of Trump Tower holding a copy of the New York Daily News. [Image by Spencer Pratt/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Spencer PrattGetty Images

At this moment, even universally-accepted moral principles are willfully sacrificed on the altar of the partisan tribe. We dangerously label opponents as enemies, popularizing their dehumanization. We equate compromise to treason and bipartisanship to capitulation. We perceive diversity of opinion as a pathogen in need of a cure, criticism as betrayal, and truth as hearsay.

Gone are the days when impassioned practitioners of all stripes collided with one another in a battle for ideological supremacy, aptly elucidating the tenets of a well-formed argument. Today, we’ve transformed dignity, civility, and openness into expendable relics, wantonly subjecting those harboring opposing views to unbridled contempt and reprehensible abuse.

Trump supporter garb at a rally.
Supporters attending a November 2016 Trump rally in Orlando. [Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images] Featured image credit: Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

Merely reading through the comments section of any politics-related news article presents a startlingly-horrific glimpse into the growing depths of our intellectual depravity. In these virtual echo chambers, the fertility of cogency and rationality has been poisoned by the toxicity of uninhibited hate.

Shamefully, we’ve all but completed our societal descent into the abyss of indecency.

[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]