Toxicity of American Political Culture Is Harming Our Nation and Communities

Never in my life have I seen the level of political hostility we have in our country today. Occasionally we see people riot and protest over what they believe or perceive to be an injustice, but what our country has experienced since January 20 is outright toxic and ultimately damaging to our nation. More disturbing is the damage it is creating in our own backyards.

There has always been two or more sides with opposing views on controversial topics, and one can only imagine the chaos and fights from disagreements those town-hall type meetings in revolutionary war era taverns produced. I’m sure there were multiple causalities caused by the disagreement on whether American should seek full independence or remain loyal to Britain. Yet news traveled much slower 250 years ago and since Al Gore invented the Internet, today’s discourse, or lack thereof, is different, and much worse.

When people state their reasons for protesting these days, most simply mention President Trump and what may or may not be his policy or political intentions. But I believe it goes much deeper. American has become increasingly divided along racial, gender and socio-economic levels and I see no end in sight.

In the months leading up to the 1994 elections, there was a conservative undercurrent that had been brewing since President Clinton won is 1992. Lifelong, yellow-dog Democrat families were casting Republican ballots for the first time in their lives. My parents were prime examples. The popularity of Talk Radio, ushered in by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ken Hamlin and others created a tsunami of Republican voters that swept Newt Gingrich and over 70 freshmen Congressmen into power.

People would call in and pontificate over the Clintons trying to nationalize healthcare and why term limits should be imposed at every level of public office. At least the majority of talk-show hosts kept the discourse confined to a reasonable level, namely because of FCC guidelines. Opinion editors where carefully editing letters to the editor and dismissing those that veered off topic. But the Internet – that awesome tool we use everyday – has taken political activism and opinion to a new low.

For over four years I worked as a professional journalist and editor for The Christian Post, an online news site. Toward the latter half of my time there, I advocated we eliminate the “comment” section at the bottom of news and opinion pieces. Why? As you might imagine, the comments from those who despised Christianity were to say the least, “over the top” in their opposition to a Christian worldview. Many times they were vile and hateful. However my main point of contention was most people who comment are so ill informed on the topic that their opinions added nothing, absolutely zero, to the issue at hand. To put it bluntly, most comments were stupid and only designed to insult and degrade others. And it gets worse and worse with each year.

I’m certainly no fan of what we commonly refer to as the “mainstream” media. Mainstream I can handle; the media reports we see and read today are in many cases downright hostile. While there are multiple reasons why, here are two I see as creating the most discourse.

First, the media provokes the ill informed and naïve today more than ever.

Journalism is supposed to be objective, meaning to cover all sides of an issue with the same focus and intent. News organizations today are focused on “hits” or “clicks.” Their revenue base is centered around how many times you and I click on an article, how long we stay there and if we share on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets.

The first ingredient in generating hits is how you headline the story. Although more art than science, editors pay close attention to key words and phrases and spend some portion of their day surfing the web to determine what words are trending that day. There are websites that facilitate such work.

For example, last week in The New York Times, there is an article headlined, “Roommates Wanted. Trump Supporters Need Not Apply.” Can you imagine the paper running a headline eight years ago that read, “Roommates Wanted. Obama Supporters Need Not Apply.” The outcries of racism would have been everywhere, especially from Times.

Where were the protests when Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) revealed he received last week he had received racists tweets and emails calling him an “Uncle Tom” and a ni**er. I did not see the Times come to his defense. Is it because he’s a Republican or a black Republican?

Second, even the least informed among us has the same platform as everyone else.

No, that’s not a good idea. Giving the local idiot a platform similar to Robert George, George Will, Peggy Noonan or David Leonhardt is a horrible idea. These columnists can articulately state their position in a concise and civil manner. Whether you or I agree or disagree with them is not the issue. The neighborhood numskull whose remains angry at a world that would never include them has gone from tossing an occasional grenade to now having their finger on the trigger of a dangerous, misinformed and misguided weapon. And let’s not bring up the issue of objectivity. They don’t subscribe to the idea because they have no idea what it means. Worse yet, they don’t care.

I didn’t support President Trump in the Republican primary because my comfort level with his knowledge of domestic and world politics wasn’t there. I voted for him in the General Election because the people he would nominate to cabinet positions and judicial seats would in my opinion be much better for our country’s future than those nominated by Hillary Clinton.

Michael Flynn’s resignation has dealt the first blow to the Trump administration. Half of this country – maybe more – would like to see President Trump impeached or out of office. Is this good for our country or local communities? I don’t think so.