If you hoped 2020 might bring more civility to national politics, count yourself an eternal optimist, and count yourself wrong.
These first few weeks show continued deterioration in our public discourse. Honesty and showing minimal respect for others no longer appear to be expected of elected officials. That’s clear from polls that show President Donald Trump has not lost political ground despite 15,000-plus lies and boorish insults.
Certainly, Democrats lie, too. But when it comes to unapologetic, repeated, self-serving dishonesty, Trump is unmatched.
Increasingly, Americans seem OK with that. At a Toledo, Ohio, campaign rally, the president made his usual inaccurate boasts of accomplishments, and went on to call Democrats “vicious, horrible people.” He was rewarded with whoops and hollers of support.
Meanwhile, Democrats whoop and holler insults when anyone disagrees with them.
Intolerance of anyone with differing views — now or in the past — has become almost a point of pride.
Recently on Twitter, I shared a link to an opinion piece Sheila Bair wrote for the Washington Post.
Bair is from Kansas. She served on the Federal Reserve through Republican and Democratic administrations. She was writing about the field of Democrats running for president. Part of her column said:
“I am a Republican who has never voted for a Democrat in a presidential election. But I share Democrats’ concern that our system is rigged to favor the wealthy and powerful over working families. I am tired of a loophole-ridden tax code that advantages investors over workers. … I regret to admit that I also voted negative in 2016, casting a protest vote for the Libertarian Party ticket because I didn’t think Clinton or Trump was really committed to change. I would prefer not to do so again.”
When I linked to the piece with a tweet, I noted that I found it interesting but didn’t agree with it entirely. A reply quickly came from the left. The gist of it was that Bair had no credibility because she had not voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Wackily, Democrats and Republicans deride blind loyalty when the other party demands it.
No one’s demands, however, are as excessive as Trump’s. He insults and threatens those who disagree with him on such hefty issues as immigration, impeachment and war, and on inconsequential things, such as hurricane forecasts and crowd sizes.
Recently former U.N. secretary Nikki Haley and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) ingratiated themselves with Trump and his supporters by appearing on national TV shows to claim that Democrats love terrorists.
Such nonsense presumes Americans are either dimwits or condone dishonest smears because, in fact, Democrats — as well Republicans and others — have been killed by terrorists and in wars to battle terrorism.
Democrats also resort to smears to rile up partisan support and encourage hatred of Republicans. For example, Elizabeth Warren called congressional Republicans “fawning, spineless defenders of (Trump’s) crimes.”
Neither Trump nor Democrats, however, can win the presidency with votes only from loyal followers.
A recent Gallup poll shows 28 percent of Americans identify as Republican, and 28 percent identify as Democrat. Forty-one percent are independent.
Trump is betting that he can, once again, win the White House by making enough voters in that 41 percent hate the Democratic nominee more than they hate him.
And it appears Democrats are willing to take that bet.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.