While political differences are a constant and even valuable part of civic life, political extremism is an increasing and dangerous trend. Such extremism exists on both the left (e.g., Antifa-related violence at protests, attempts to prevent speakers such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos from talking on college campuses) and the right (e.g., the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, voter suppression). This increased polarization is harmful as it divides our communities and makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate and solve our nation’s challenges.
Our concern is a result of the extreme words and actions of our elected representatives at all governmental levels, including Candice Keller as our Ohio House rep, Warren Davidson as our U. S. House rep and Donald Trump as President. Keller’s use of far right imagery (the Nazi swastika juxtaposed with Planned Parenthood’s logo in a since deleted Facebook post), appearance on a white power advocate’s (Sonny Thomas) radio show, citing of false crime statistics regarding undocumented immigrants from the Center for Immigration Studies (identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), calling for the possible imprisonment of elected officials in sanctuary cities, defense of confederate monuments and support for the utterly uncompromising economic stance of the Freedom Caucus are alarming.
In Davidson’s case, his uninformed and almost complete dismissal of the significant body of research on climate science, lack of inclusiveness (in speaking about minorities and immigrants at an Oxford town hall, he seemed to suggest that Christian men are more important than other citizens) and harsh economic views (e.g., at another town hall, Davidson told a constituent, in regard to her adult son, that her son did not deserve health care coverage since he was unemployed) are concerning. Finally, Trump’s bigoted statements toward various minority groups, refusal to listen to the U. S. intelligence community and failure to condemn the KKK/neo-Nazis/white supremacists in an unambiguous and sincere manner make cooperative agreements nearly impossible.
We believe that this extremism, which does not represent the viewpoint of most Americans and prevents bipartisan solutions to our nation’s problems, must be replaced by a focus on shared values. For example, instead of taking absolutist stands on economic, social and scientific issues which leave no room for working with those with differing positions, our political representatives need to seek common ground and work together to unify our country. Further, they must recognize that such cooperative action is a truer reflection of patriotism as it promotes better solutions, fosters greater trust and better reflects the American values which have contributed to our country’s greatness.
Above all else, our politicians must offer evidence-based support for their positions. Differences in values are a natural and desirable part of American life; our society benefits from the checks and balances provided by having multiple political parties and platforms. For our system to work more effectively, we need elected officials who are honest, informed and committed to making the U. S. a country which meets the needs of all of its citizens. When our elected officials through their words and actions exhibit political zealotry, are divisive and adopt intractable positions, we all pay a steep price. In our estimation, the removal of extremism in our local and national politics is a key step in coming together to make our great nation even better.
Larry Nadler and Marjorie Keeshan Nadler, former professors