To the editor:
Issues like health insurance, abortion, immigration, climate change, voting rights or even something like paid family leave have degenerated into a “winner-loser” proposition. Conservatives feel they lose everything if they do not win everything on every issue. A similar dynamic appears on the left. Republicans and Democrats are propelled by a base of support: One side says it is motivated by goodness. The other side is evil.
The debate has now reached its zenith with name calling, disparagement, belittling and, in some cases, violence. Opinions have degenerated into stridency.
A case in point is last Sunday’s letter to the editor by Ed Brooks.
He disparages Democrats as having “kook” ideas. Not all ideas of President George Bush were wrong. Not all ideas of President Barack Obama were right. Obama set a “red line” in Syria. When it was breached, there was little penalty. Bush's attempt to settle the Middle East went awry with the first bomb on Iraq.
Brooks’ letter falls into a series of empty statements that Democrats are socialists, that Democrats want open borders. These and his other statements are false premises. They are opinions, certainly, but statements that poison and inflame the debate on important issues.
Most Democrats want illegal immigrants treated humanely, given clean water, kept with families, given a “cot” to sleep on instead of a floor, given emergency medical treatment, and provided with food. I have yet to talk with a Republican who wants them treated inhumanely, tortured or raped.
No one wants drug lords or gang criminals here, despite President Donald Trump's claim that “Democrats want criminals in your neighborhoods.” There is not a Democrat I know who wants anyone of that sort in the country at any time.
Republicans and Democrats both decry the virulence of Bible Belt laws that make it a felony to abort a six-week fetus and jail the doctor or mother. The abortion debate too has degenerated into violence.
Our feelings about issues do not have to be winner-take-all propositions. One test of sound leadership is the ability to bring together opposing sides so both can feel each side won something.
Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton did this. Trump fails miserably, as he’s brought the debate to a level of name-calling and outbursts that appeal to the basest, most rabid of his supporters.
Until we can get back to leadership that brings opposing sides together and makes each feel it has won something, we’ll continue down the same road. I expect the next presidential campaign to promote violence, perpetuate lies as truth, and make the meanest even meaner.
My hope is that Americans choose a more ethical leader who is committed to making sure everyone feels part of something. Mr. Brooks should take note.