Although politics has always been intense, it’s obvious the political scene in America has entered an even more emotional phase the past 5 years. Whether one lays blame for this on the rise of social media, the presidency of Donald Trump, or the heightened activism of the progressive base of the Democrats, it’s clear that civility in politics is being undercut by a heightened Us vs. Them mentality.
Where this newfound emotionalism leads is anyone’s guess. However…one thing’s for sure: America’s entering uncharted political territory. This new era is not only more politically intense; many fear it may also serve as a transition to a state of socio-political chaos.
Some claim that the increase in political strife is due to the fact that the Post-Modern world de-emphasizes the concept of truth. This de-emphasis has led some to even reject the concept of apparent truth. Although most of us understand that absolute truth’s a subject of much debate, many of us still seek agreement on areas of apparent truth. The decline of rationality in politics can be attributed somewhat to the fact that many have given up on the ability to find common ground on areas of apparent truth. This trend leads many activists and politicians of all stripes to just attend to their particular causes in isolation. In addition, many members of the media now follow this same trend.
Since America’s form of government and Constitution was born during the rationalism of the Enlightenment, today’s Post-Modern approach to politics is fraying America’s concept of checks and balances. Historically, the beauty of America’s government lay in how its limited government provided a legal framework that allowed opposites to co-exist. This framework led to the often-quoted ideal of “agreeing to disagree.” Implicit in this was the idea that a “melting-pot” of differing cultures and values could live side by side with each other in relative peace if they followed the law. An amazing thing about this form of government is that it unwittingly provided a framework that encouraged a cross-pollination of ideas. This process not only encouraged a certain freedom of thought, it also encouraged separate cultures to maintain their identity all while still being influenced by other cultures.
In the subjective Post-Modern world the concept of “agreeing to disagree” is being eroded. In its place is an unyielding dogma that relies on caricature and ridicule to beat into submission opposing thoughts. Unfortunately, political debate on all levels is losing the ability to coalesce around the idea of looking to apparent truths to find a common good for America. Political rhetoric now encourages followers of a particular dogma to seek a purity that’s almost impossible to achieve. As a result, most political victories are no longer seen as a chance to reach across the aisle to assure the vanquished they’ll still be listened to. Instead, in today’s environment, political victors are encouraged to keep pushing the same victorious agenda to almost unreachable lengths. This process then results in the vanquished wanting retribution someday and vowing never to work with those with opposing views.
America is facing unparalleled challenges socially, politically, and economically due to both globalization and computerization. Although the Industrial Revolution and Age of Invention unleashed change quickly, the Computer Revolution, when combined with globalism, threatens to usurp traditions at a much faster pace than before. Although change is often called the one constant in life, it’s now apparent that the increasingly rapid pace of change in our Post-Modern world is increasing the level of societal cynicism.
Interestingly, many are rebelling against current trends and are trying to reinvigorate the idea that there are some truths to life that many can agree upon. This isn’t to imply that a rebirth of absolutism is at hand. This merely implies that the strong emphasis on subjectivity that characterizes the Post-Modern world is now being questioned.
In an attempt to reduce the emotionalism of today’s socio-political world, it may be wise to look for ways to reinvigorate the fact that a common good for America can still exist. In looking for common ground for a common good, recognizing apparent truths may help many of us look past the socio-political divide we now face. As opposed to absolute truth, which is hard to prove, examples of apparent truth are all around us. If we open our eyes to these common levels of truth it may become easier to find things to agree upon. One can only hope.