Saturday, January 14, 2017

Extreme politics

Much has been written about the increasing polarization of politics in the United States. It hasn't always been that way. Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Barry Goldwater were friends, though diametrically opposed politically. More recently, Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were friends though they had very different views of law and politics. In each case people were willing to disagree about political issues but enjoy each other's company and their shared interests (Justices Scalia and Ginsburg both enjoyed Opera, to the extent an opera was written about their friendship).

Today, especially after the election of Donald Trump, this seems a foreign concept to many. Friends have stopped talking to each other after finding out the other one voted the wrong way. People who worked together for years are suddenly enemies.

Now I'm finding this "politics determines who I'm willing to associate with" view going back over 40 years. I'm reading Nancy Pelosi's memoir "Know Your Power", subtitled "A Message to America's Daughters". In this she writes about moving to San Francisco in the late 1960s. After spending months looking for a house to rent, she finally finds one. But she then learns the reason the house is available is that the owner is going to Washington to become part of the Nixon administration. Mrs. Pelosi immediately backs out of the deal, she cannot rent a house which became available by the election of Richard Nixon.

Mrs. Pelosi later talks about some lifelong friends. She makes a point that one is a Republican, the rest being Democrats. Apparently her social life is largely defined by politics.

I have some fairly strong political opinions, but I can't recall any time I've defined my relationship with somebody else by politics. I've certainly had political discussions with friends, and we haven't always agreed, but I can't imagine deciding to form or break a friendship based solely on political views.

The fact that we have "public servants" unwilling to socialize outside their own political ideology goes a long way to explaining the lack of civility, compromise, or collegiality of politics today.

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