There is increasing evidence that we are losing our ability to communicate with one another in a civil and tolerant manner. There is a heightened level of political polarization, tearing apart families, relationships and friendships—one more intense than we have seen in recent decades.
A new political ad is shocking—not because two opponents are attacking one another but because it features family members turning on their brother in public. Welcome to the midterm election of 2018. And welcome to Disunited America.
Incumbent Republican Congressman Paul A. Gosar is squaring off against his Democratic opponent David Brill for his seat in Arizona’s Fourth Congressional District. In this battle, six of Gosar’s siblings appear in an ad vilifying him and supporting Brill.
“These disgruntled Hillary supporters are related by blood to me but like leftists everywhere, they put political ideology before family,” tweeted Gosar in response.
These siblings state in the ad that they are defending the values they were taught at their kitchen table. In a Sept. 22 interview with The Washington Post, David Gosar refers to his brother as involved in causes that are “kooky, crazy, nutty.”
“I’m not going to break bread with a racist,” he said.
It is not enough to simply disagree; the Gosar siblings are attacking their brother’s heart, mind, and soul—his very character. And they don’t mind airing their dirty laundry in public.
Such stark incidents of polarization are becoming more common. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife Heidi were recently accosted by a chanting mob at a D.C, restaurant. They were lambasted for their support of the candidacy of Bret Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
“This is a message to Ted Cruz, Bret Kavanaugh, Donald Trump and the rest of the racist, sexist, transphobic, and homophobic right-wing scum: You are not safe. We will find you. We will expose you. We will take from you the peace you have taken from so many others,” tweeted the group who confronted Cruz, Smash Racism DC.
In Lexington, Virginia in June, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of the Red Hen restaurant, sparking national headlines.
“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, Va. to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” tweeted Sanders. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
While it is true that we are not as divided in contemporary America as we were during the Civil War or the 1960s, it is undeniable that in recent decades the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans is growing ever more pronounced: even the word “bipartisan” is perceived as dirty, ugly, as caving to the other side.
The current clash is between two visions of what America really is: Are we a Christian nation, rooted in a respect for our founding principles and Constitution? Or are we going to erase our religious heritage, our borders and our national consciousness in order to embrace a new secular, globalist identity?
The passion and intensity among opponents is increasing precisely because the stakes are so high: We are arguing about our core beliefs. One side will win; one will lose. And between these two opponents, there is no kitchen table. ♦
Grace Vuoto is the communications director of the
Boston Broadside and a columnist.