EDITORIAL: Take a Xanax, America


(Photo illustration by Joel Boland)

State Hornet

America, you need to take a Xanax.

Election seasons are adversarial, and they should be. The Democratic and Republican parties have vastly different views on the course our nation should take and partisan cheerleading and criticism, even invective, is part of the process.

But at some point, partisanship must give way to the common good and the realization that we, as Americans, are all in this together and that our highest hopes, dreams and aspirations are far deeper than the platform of one political party or another.

The problem is that in 2016 there has been little discussion of the common good, almost no line that hyper-partisanship has not crossed. Our political opponents are increasingly viewed not as mere competitors or even just wrong on the issues — they are seen as a threat that must be destroyed.

This problem has been growing for the past several decades. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, the number of Americans who view the other party as “a threat to the nation’s well-being” has more than doubled since 1994 (from 17 percent of Republicans to 43 percent, and from 16 percent of Democrats to 38 percent).

This existential angst is taking its toll. According to the American Psychological Association, over 50 percent of Americans are experiencing “significant” election-related anxiety.

The Stress in America poll found that “Democrats and Republicans are equally likely as one another to say the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.”

Politicians purposefully fan the flames of anxiety in order to motivate “the base” to turn out and vote.

In February, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said that President Obama was sabotaging America.

“It’s now abundantly clear: Barack Obama has deliberately weakened America,” Rubio said. “Happiest of all have been America’s enemies.”

To accuse a sitting president of everything short of treason must be backed up by evidence. If not, it only serves as a hyperbolic statement that perpetuates hatred.

On the other side of the aisle, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright rained down fire and brimstone on women who had the audacity to not vote for the Democratic nominee.

“Young women have to support Hillary Clinton,” Albright said. “Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

Really? What about conservative women, or women who can’t support Clinton’s hawkish foreign policies?

The hyper-partisanship is not only causing us to have more negative views of each other, but is becoming an impediment to the functioning of our government.

In 2013, the federal government shut down for 16 days because Congress did not appropriate funds for it to continue normal operations. 800,000 employees were furloughed and over one million people had to show up for work without knowing when they would be paid.

This year, the U.S. Senate has refused to scheduled hearings on Barack Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, leaving the seat empty and resulting in split decisions. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that a Republican-led Senate should not vote on any judges to fill future vacancies on the Supreme Court during a potential Clinton presidency.

Many on both sides of the aisle this year have accused Republican nominee Donald Trump of being uniquely unqualified of serving as president and have justified sounding alarm bells because of his candidacy.

But would the Trump candidacy be possible if alarm bells had not been sounded so many times before?

Henry Wolfson, the communications director for the Hillary Clinton’s 2008 primary campaign, said that Trump’s rise has made him regret unwarranted language used about Republicans in the past.

“I’m quite confident I employed language that, in retrospect, was hyperbolic and inaccurate, language that cheapened my ability — our ability — to talk about this moment with accuracy and credibility,” he said.

Indeed, accusing milquetoast Mitt Romney of sexism because of his “binders full of women” comment seems quaint when this year’s Republican nominee once said of women that “you have to treat ‘em like shit.”

The purpose of democracy is not to be so fiercely loyal to our “teams” that we forget that our ultimate loyalty is to one another.

We can’t solve America’s problems if we believe one-half of the country wants to destroy it. Under such a tribal mentality, compromise is not possible.

We come from different places and have different solutions to problems. If we continue to view each other as enemies rather than as fellow people whose views deserve to be considered, will there be a nation left for anyone to govern?

Regardless of the outcome of this election, we as Americans must begin to bridge the gap that has been increasingly dividing us.

Listen to each other. Make an effort to escape your partisan bubbles and echo chambers. Learn to disagree without disparaging.

And if all else fails, just take a Xanax, America.