Commentary: America is rife with bigotry and we need to stop being bigots. Intolerance of others’ point of view characterizes current politics and it needs to end now.
A bigot, of course, is someone obstinately devoted to their own views, especially in regards to members of another group. Our country is ripe with bigoted Democrats intolerant of Republicans and bigoted Republicans intolerant of Democrats. This is very sad as the differences between the parties are modest.
Take the recent tax bill. The top tax bracket was dropped by 2.6% to 37%. This is still 9% higher than the rate enacted in 1986 under Ronald Reagan. Why wasn’t the rate dropped more? Because to do so was too radical to gain a consensus among Republicans.
I didn’t support the tax cuts going to the rich, as I believe that people should pay for the resources they use and the rich benefit from government more than the poor.
But I respect the arguments on the other side. One of which is that producers should be able to retain the fruits of their labors. Another of which is that lower taxes will incentive people to work harder and invest more promoting growth, hence ultimately benefiting everyone. These two arguments are logically valid and deserving of respect.
But to listen to Democrats, you would think that Republican tax bill is the harbinger of the coming Armageddon. It is not. The Republican tax plan is a modest change that will slightly stimulate the economy short run, and will increase deficits long run.
Similarly, repeal of the Obama Care individual mandate, also part of the Republican tax bill, still leaves us better off than we were as recently as 2012, especially as Medicaid expansion remains in place. Repeal was a bad idea, but the counter argument that the individual mandate is an unwarranted restriction on personal freedom is legitimate.
Of course, Republicans are just as bad. Their dehumanization of Obama, tinged as it is with racism, is been very disruptive of civil discourse. Obama was a mainstream left-of-center president who sought to pace reasonable to-the-left policies. The continuing disparaging of Hilary Clinton, who lost after all, serves no purpose but feed the bigoted biases of the rabid base.
The bigotry is being encouraged by demagogues across the political spectrum. Politicians are demonizing their opponents in the hopes of energizing their base because doing so generates donations; it motivates voters to contact their representatives; and gets voters to go to the polls.
These demagogues are aided and abetted by media personalities who seek ratings by pandering to their audiences. The demagogues are also aided and abetted by human nature. People like to have their biases confirmed, don’t like having to admit their wrong. This causes people to favor those media outlets that espouse the view they already agree with. The media becomes an echo chamber. All this is made easier today with our balkanize media than it was a generation ago, when network news was dominate. Because networks wanted to appeal to a broad audience, they tended not take extreme views. Back then, the fear was homogenization and the inability alternative views to gain access to an audience. Now we have moved to the opposite extreme.
Christopher A. Erickson, Ph.D., is a professor of economics at NMSU. He considers himself a moderate libertarian. The opinions expressed may not be shared by the regents and administration of NMSU. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.