Elsewhere in this publication my colleague and friend, Martin Levowitz, leaves no doubt about his views of Donald Trump. I write not in opposition to Levowitz’ basic premise, for I share his disdain for how our president has comported himself and his concern that the president’s heart’s desire may be dictatorship. Rather, my purpose in writing is to seize this opportunity to take issue with the tone of discourse among both those who practice politics
and those who comment on it, in this case, Mr. Levowitz.
I will own outright my liberal political leanings and sympathies for so many of the views Levowitz has espoused in his columns. What disturbs me, and prompts this response, is that vitriol does nothing to bridge the divide between the ideological extremes; in fact, it only widens the gap. It seems to me that Levowitz surrenders a measure of credibility when he resorts to the same name-calling tactics as his target. Martin and Donald are not on the same playing field, but isn’t Martin playing the minor league version of the same game Donald plays with Kim Jong-un in the big leagues?
As I write this in the early hours of the government shutdown, I am bombarded by endless replays of utterances by political leaders, each heaping scorn on the “other” party for causing the government to grind to a halt. In my view, this impasse and its resultant discourse are exhibit A in a demonstration of where vitriol leads. Indeed, that a shutdown was even contemplated at all is evidence that the ugly and poisonous partisan atmosphere that prevails now in our nation’s capital cries out for we, the people, to take bold action to bring about the change we so desperately need.
Donald Trump was right: we need to drain the swamp. We need to start by engaging in respectful dialog at the interpersonal level with those who hold ideas at odds with our own in a genuine search for common ground. Then we need to encourage and support candidates for public office who pledge to do likewise. If we cannot do that, we will continue to elect, and then re-elect, officials who put party above the common good and power above principle. Of course, finding common ground assumes there is common ground to be had. As a former conservative Republican, I believe not only that there is common ground to be reached but that, in fact, in most cases that common ground will better serve the common good than if either party were able to implement its platform without regard to the concerns on which opposing adherents base their positions. Outright control of all branches of government by a single party, whether liberal or conservative, is a frightening prospect, as we are now privileged to witness. With apologies to Sen. Barry Goldwater (for whom I voted in ’64), my antidote to extremism (look it up, youngins), which is dictatorship’s lubricant, is an informed electorate capable of, and insistent upon, open and respectful dialogue in the formulation of public policy.
As a fellow writer for this publication and a member of its governing board, I am keenly aware that Levowitz has his critics, some of whom I suspect don’t read his column either because of his beliefs or his rhetoric. I, for one, hope he continues to write, although I think his adoption of a more civil tone at times would not only increase his readership but, more importantly, encourage reasoned responses that would elevate the richness of the dialogue that is so vital to a successful democracy.
I also fervently hope that someone in this community will step forward to provide a more conservative point of view as a regular feature of the PRT, something the PRT board and editor have been seeking for some time.