Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tolerance across the Aisle

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tolerance across the Aisle

Article excerpt

I recently spoke to a man who said if Hillary Clinton had won the election, a lot of people would have moved to Texas. When I asked him why, he replied: "Because it's a state where people still believe in God, use the right bathroom, and salute the flag."

His comment was a jarring reminder of the political polarization our nation faces.

America's political landscape has always had its share of fissures, but most would agree that an unhealthy divide, marked by a lack of tolerance, has developed in recent years. As some Americans sit out the Pledge of Allegiance, others speak of Texas as a saving sanctuary.

In spring 2011, former Republican senator from Wyoming, Alan Simpson, shared an experience with Thomas Friedman regarding the nature of American politics. Friedman later documented Simpson's story in the bestselling book he wrote with Michael Mandelbaum, "That Used to Be Us." According to their account, shortly after Simpson left the Senate he returned to Capitol Hill to check in. He happened to see his former colleague and close friend Dale Bumpers, who was still serving as a Democratic senator from Arkansas. Simpson moved across the chamber and greeted Bumpers with a hearty embrace. When he returned to the Republican side he was approached by a young Republican senator who said, "What were you doing over there with Bumpers? He's a Democrat. He's a rabid liberal. You shouldn't be hugging him."

Simpson's experience is a prime example of the paralyzing effects of extreme partisanship. Political parties, which once gave the voter a greater voice, now exacerbate a culture of disrespect and scorn. During the time Simpson served in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans had much about which they disagreed; however, despite clear ideological differences, very few politicians at that time considered members of the opposing party to be corrupt and immoral. …

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