Bumper stickers proclaim, “Kate Brown is not my governor.” T-shirts, magnets and decals declare, “Donald Trump is not my president.”
Those items are reprehensible.
They are far from the magnitude of the shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the mailings of pipe bombs to high-profile detractors of President Trump.
But they are dangerous to our political souls and those around us, if not to our physical bodies. Kate Brown in Oregon and Donald Trump in America hold public offices that represent all of us, regardless of whether we agree with them or not.
Public disagreement and civilized protest can be a sign of a healthy republic, but defining your life by the protest can be destructive.
It certainly appears to have been for Cesar Sayoc, who has been charged with sending pipe bombs to prominent Democrats. His ardent support for Trump isn’t what defined his life — his hatred toward others is.
Ronald Lowy, a lawyer for Sayoc’s family, described it well in a New York Times interview: “He lacked an identity. He created a persona.”
That persona was stoked anonymously in a like-minded online community, and his actions, while ultimately failing their intended purpose, showed the logical conclusion to such rage.
In Pittsburgh the consequences of that anger were tragic, as 11 people were gunned down during religious worship.
Although it will come as news to many partisans, political views can be polar opposite and legitimate. Neither Brown nor Trump deserves vilification. Neither one merits being called an extremist.
Trump has intensified America’s political and cultural divides through his polarizing, us-vs.-them mentality. Sadly, many Democrats have responded in kind. There is no good end to this game. Such rhetoric might be appropriate for a football coach; but in politics, America needs more of the rugby or lacrosse style in which opponents battle fiercely on the field and then join for pizza afterward.
This is not a plea for everyone to play nicely, although that would be good. We know that one editorial cannot cause a person to say, “By golly, now I know I shouldn’t vilify my political foes — just like I shouldn’t run with scissors or play with lighters!”
Rather, we humbly suggest that if people are dismayed by the current political tenor — we believe most are — that they take it upon themselves to change the tone. This might sound like a contradiction, but the place to start is with those who share their views — the candidates, political parties and organizations whom they support.
No one can change the other person, regardless of how much arguing takes place. Research indicates that such arguing usually cements a person’s existing view. Instead, people have greater opportunity to influence the like-minded individuals who already have their trust. Together, help them see the value in pulling back on the rhetoric and reclaiming truth instead of pushing insinuation.
Consider what could happen if voters demonstrated irrevocable civility and demanded civility from the candidates they supported. Until that becomes the societal expectation, the current political climate will only worsen.
A place to start is Oregon’s gubernatorial race, where both major candidates and their allies have been competing over who can wallow deeper in the gutters of political slime, mistruths and negativity.
Kate Brown and Knute Buehler are both decent individuals, though you would not know that from the opposition campaign ads. Both deserve respect for aspiring to the office of governor. Neither is perfect. Yet after the election, one will have the task of unifying Oregon.