Opinion | Bruce Butler: A call for respectful discourse | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Bruce Butler: A call for respectful discourse

It has been my personal experience that voters do not like name-calling and negative campaigns. This is especially true in local elections, as neighbors do not want nastiness over local politics to divide their friendships and community. There are a handful of contested local elections in Summit County this November and I hope the candidates will take the higher road and have a contest of ideas rather than attack the character and motives of the other.

There are some interesting contests for state and federal office this November including Colorado governor, with Jared Polis defending his seat against Heidi Ganahl, and U.S. Senate, where incumbent Michael Bennett is defending his seat against Joe O’Dea. While the political ads leading up to Nov. 1 have not really started in earnest, you can be sure there will be lots of mudslinging. This is largely due to the proliferation of Super PAC groups that can attack opponents with relative anonymity and the fact that 30 seconds of destruction seem to have more influence on undecided voters than 60 seconds of positivity.

I don’t need to tell anybody that our country is severely divided along social, ideological, and economic philosophies and issues. I’ll go further. In my opinion, our country is as divided today as it has been anytime since the Civil War in the 1860s. This does not bode well for our nation’s future as China flexes its military and economic leverage over Taiwan and critical supply chains, Russia continues to strain our European allies over energy and food supplies as the Ukrainian war rages on, and the Biden administration remains inexplicably committed to destabilizing the Middle East by reinstating the Iran Nuclear Deal. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Former President Trump would have benefitted from more restrained and judicious use of Twitter. His innate need to snap back at even the slightest criticism defined his personality, severely damaged his brand and cost him a close election. His personal conduct overshadowed some very real and positive policy accomplishments, like domestic energy independence, meaningful sanctions against the Chinese government for intellectual property theft and the Abraham Peace Accords in the Middle East.

Two wrongs do not make a right. President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia last Thursday evening was divisive and destructive to collective national unity. Using Independence Hall, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution — from which we enjoy the unalienable right to be protected against political persecution and prosecution — to label millions of citizens who have a more limited government, market-oriented and traditional vision for the betterment of our nation as a “danger to our democracy” is unbecoming of any elected official, let alone the President of the United States. 

Yes, his remarks were thinly veiled as pointed criticism of President Trump and the delusional ideologues wilding in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but his message was clearly intended to vilify a much larger number of citizens.

Mr. President, the biggest threats to democracy today are the push to silence the free exchange of ideas; to de-platform political opposition; the loss of trust in our civic, cultural, and governmental institutions; and the loss of respectful debate. Whether the Biden team believes that keeping the MAGA acronym associated with President Trump and in the spotlight helps the Democratic Party’s fortunes in the midterm elections, or that by implication labeling 75 million voters as enemies of the state diverts the public’s attention from the fentanyl crisis fueled by his abdication of border security, or the one-year anniversary of his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, or his decision to vacate student loan debt, President Biden’s rhetoric is a low point for national unity and civil political discourse.

Words matter and presidents should summon our nation to pursue higher common good, like President John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” Ronald Reagan’s “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” Abraham Lincoln’s “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” These inspirational quotes are light years away from Joe Biden’s “You are a dog-faced pony soldier.” God save the soul of our nation.

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