Partisan rancor shouldn’t trickle down to public

Thursday, a budget and debt deal was approved by the U.S. Senate by a 67-28 vote with plenty of Democratic support and with President Donald Trump having already committed to signing it.

The same day, U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, was in Minot and pointed out areas where there has been bipartisan progress over the past two years. Afterward he shared with Minot Daily News commentary on the subject of the partisan divide in Washington. It was significant that he said that Democrats and Republicans in Congress do indeed work together on legislation and many frequently get along personally and professionally just fine, even knowing that the other legislator is probably going to support a candidate of his own party against his current colleague.

Yet, much of what we see and read out of Washington is pure, ugly partisan vitriol. Driven by the 24-hour news cycle, social media and the focus on conflict over substance at many, if not most, media organizations, from out here far from the mess, it looks like two gangs locked in absolute hate of each other. Politics is certainly a blood sport – make no mistake. But media is responsible for the perception that partisanship is so hateful. Take two commentators, each with an absolute position on a subject and no regard for other opinions, put them on the air and let the ugliness come out. It’s good for ratings. Yet the public would be better served if two open-minded people with different philosophies debated an issue on facts. Maybe they find a compromise they both find agreeable or maybe they don’t. An honest, fact-based discussion permits people to make up their own minds.

However repugnant national politics appears, we know that legislators can and do work together, even while party leaders and extremists on both sides don’t just disagree with rival ideas but also find those who hold those ideas to be bad people. Tearing rivals and their supporters apart might fire up one’s base, but away from the mighty halls of power, it has a detrimental effect on the public.

Partisan rancor shouldn’t trickle down to we the people. That’s because so much of it is for show, most of the fuel on the fire comes from half-truths and outright lies repeated over and over, and in the end, a bloated federal government moves on.

Yet while we shouldn’t permit the partisan ugliness to influence us, it does. Just read commentary on local news sites’ discussion boards, blogs and social media. Or listen to stories similar to those MDN has heard about friendships ruined over political differences turned ugly and about families and stressed holiday meals because of varying political views.

MDN would like to think that the public is better than that and that most people go about their lives every day without giving Washington’s mess much thought. That’s the benefit of living in a civil society. Additionally, here our ‘North Dakota Nice’ should trump political acrimony driven by hateful politicos, particularly since so much of it is theatrics. Lastly, we are smart enough in these parts to know that politicians and many in media are the only people who benefit from all the vitriol.

Individually and collectively, we can be better than that. MDN believes we should try.