One of the things that I most dislike about today’s political scene is the hyperpartisanship that puts people in political bubbles. This wasn’t always this way. I’m a liberal, but I used to have a lot of conservative friends whom we could talk about politics without it getting personal. And most of my liberal and even some of my more radical leftist friends had conservative friends. This used to be a normal thing.
That isn’t as true anymore. I still have some conservative friends, but I lost a lot of conservative friends over the years, especially conservative Christian friends. I still know some conservatives who can argue intelligently about what they believe while still being able to listen to opposing views and respecting my right to disagree. But in recent years I’ve also encountered more rigid conservatives who’ve yelled at my face and tried to bully me into accepting their views.
Though Ronald Reagan was a conservative Republican and Tip O’Neill was a liberal Democrat, they became friends during their time in Washington D.C. They saw these type of bipartisan friendships as a testament to the best of our democratic republic, where people can be political opponents yet still be good friends. One of the signs of health of our democratic republic is when the stirrings for change can be channeled through the political process without the need for violent revolution.
One of the great dangers that I see in Donald Trump is his penchant to scapegoat vulnerable minority communities and to demonize his political opponents. We first saw this in the Republican primaries, when he spent his time branding his Republican opponents with nicknames and indulging in conspiracy theories rather than having any substantive policy discussions. From Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in the primaries to Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Jeff Flake, Truman’s main form of political discourse seems to be the personal insult. It creates a terrible tone for an already divided nation.
America is better than this. From the friendship between Federalists John and Abigail Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson, to the friendship of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, they set an example where people of vastly different viewpoints could work to resolve pressing issues and form friendships and be a part of a community. Liberal John Kerry and conservative John McCain become close friends in spite of their differences over the Vietnam War. Liberal George McGovern became close friends with conservative Barry Goldwater in spite of their differences.
They knew how to be political adversaries without being personal enemies. This is something that President Trump doesn’t seem to be able to do.
Here is a video of the late Senator Ted Kennedy speaking at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation on April 28, 2007.
In this video, Ronald Reagan talked about his friendship with Tip O’Neill