There is an ugly war ongoing in America — a war of politics that began the day Donald Trump got elected and continues to rage like the wildfires currently destroying California. Politics has always been brutal, personal, even hostile on a national scale (look to history to the elections of 1800, 1828, 1884, 1908 and 2000 to name some of the worst), but the vitriol and partisan self-centeredness of politicians just seems unparalleled today. It’s ironic that Nov. 11, a day just passed on our calendars and honored as Veterans Day, once was called Armistice Day. It was celebrated as the anniversary of the end of World War I, formerly known as “The War to End all Wars” (until, that is, World War II), and yet it is also only a handful of days after national fall elections in America — and if there is a time in recent memory that needs armistice and reconciliation in the U.S., it is the time after a national election.
As we write this, there are still unfinalized election results in our area (Magee vs. Salka and Tenney vs. Brindisi), in our state and throughout the country. And it is getting ugly. And, to a certain degree, embarrassing to citizens. In our own 22nd congressional district, Rep. Claudia Tenney’s campaign recently sent out a press release accusing her opponent Anthony Brindisi (who is currently ahead in the vote count) of interfering with the vote tallies. In Florida, the governor and senate races are both being legally challenged, accusations and slurs are flying, and recounts being demanded and done in an occurrence redolent of the 2000 presidential recount (remember those hanging chads?). And, in Washington, the two parties, led by Trump and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, are back at the name calling, threats, accusations and overall maliciousness.
We don’t know about you, but we are getting tired of this.
There is a famous legend in American politics that in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan (Republican) and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (Democrat) would fight each other’s policies like starving dogs in the halls of D.C. power, and then, at the end of the day, have drinks and dinner together and chat as old friends, with no hard feelings, saving the battle-talk for the workday. While historians dispute the story, and claim it is only slightly accurate, the anecdote is about more than two men. It represents the ideal of what Americans wish politics was — a gentleman’s game of chess in which opponents battle thoroughly to have their philosophy and their intentions prevail, but they do it with respect and honor, and if they lose they lose with grace and dignity.
The thing about an ideal is that while it may not be possible to achieve, it is something that should be forever striven for. It is also something that should be demanded of ourselves and of the politicians we support. In the spirit of the Armistice Day just passed, we encourage the politicians who represent us to strive equally for this dignified, respectful ideal in their work and, if they lose the race they walk away with decorum; we encourage our readers to demand this fairness and honor in their elected representatives and, when they fail to act as good and just politicians, they be held to account.
Armistices never last, just as WWI was followed by WWII, but that does not mean we should not give it homage every year and seek to emulate what it represents.