Red, White, and Turning Me Blue: The Partisan Divide
“Trump’s a crook — what a blowhard,” the Democratic voter bellows.
“Put her in jail; she deceived the American public,” the Republican voter shrieks.
After 18 months of claims, counterclaims, and counters to the counterclaims, the election is over. Thankfully.
But is the strident language? That’s up for debate — no pun intended.
The Presidential race devolved into a cavalcade of insults — and, collectively, the American public waded into the morass. Elbow deep.
Trump supporters are ignorant and misogynistic. Don’t believe me? That is the overheated rhetoric from the alternative right.
Hillary supporters are self-righteous liars. Don’t believe me? That is the overheated rhetoric from the liberal set.
And, yes, yours truly has been swept up into the sweeping generalizations. Family members and I have discussed the election ad nauseam, lampooning Trump supporters as beer-guzzling Neanderthals.
Following 18 months of blistering attack ads, sophomoric insults, and hyper-partisan commentary, yes, my language is razor-edge sharp. I don’t just disagree with a candidate’s platform; I believe (insert candidate) is a national threat. Or worse.
And that — my hard-edged tone and cutting language — concerns me. Even more than the distressing election outcome.
“Well, that’s politics. If you can’t handle the mud-slinging, there’s a nice comfy chair on the sidelines,” John Q. Apologist grumbles. Resolute Republican and Defiant Democrat vigorously nod.
They — and us — are missing the point. In our political cauldron, the election doesn’t stop on November 8th. And neither do the verbal grenades. But what are the ramifications of our scorching, divisive language?
We are witnessing them. Across the United States, protesters have hurled more than just insults — try rocks and bottles — at the police. Meanwhile, as Trump’s Twitter rants continue, his supporters are gleefully purchasing Trump That B*** t-shirts.
In this cauldron, is it any wonder that compassion and empathy are an endangered species?
“We need to heal; we need to come together as a unified country,” the talking heads plead. Moments later, these same personalities are exchanging sharp ripostes. Insert Corey Lewandowski and Van Jones sparring about Hillary’s concession speech — or lack thereof.
As politicians and commentators spew vitriol at one another, we have become desensitized to their boorish behavior. Caustic comments — Trump disparaging Hillary as “filled with hate” or Hillary labeling Trump supporters as “deplorables” — elicit a raised eyebrow — if that. With a half-hearted apology, the politicians unleash more invective.
Politicians and TV personalities are, first and foremost, role models. We hear Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric toward minorities, listen to Hillary’s callous slam toward 40% of Americans, and watch Lewandowski and Jones spar with one another. And, sadly, we model their behavior in our everyday lives. More than affecting policy discussions, the candidates and TV personalities affect our behavior. Don’t believe me? Stanford University psychologist Albert Bandura researches modeling and intuitive learning; he connects strident language to emotional blunting and apathy.
In this deeply polarized environment, there is a growing desensitization toward each others’ perspective. We talk without hearing; criticize without contemplating.
As mental health consumers, we have a special role to play. We understand the need for empowerment — to have our voices heard. We understand the importance of compassion and empathy in everyday life. Over the shrill din of fervent Trump supporters and aggrieved Hillary backers, let’s vow to rise above snarky tweets and crude insults. It is time to speak softly — and put away that big stick.
Loeb, M. (2018). Red, White, and Turning Me Blue: The Partisan Divide. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/red-white-and-turning-me-blue-the-partisan-divide/