As a person who has led intergroup dialogues, I appreciate the validity of Todd Washburn’s suggestion that we “increase interaction between members of opposing political tribes” to break stereotypes and build positive connections (“Us versus them and the paradox of education,” Ideas, Aug. 7). Among Democrats and Republicans, however, it is the latter who seem to have given up on the “search for truth and mutual understanding.”
Looking back, it was Ronald Reagan who poisoned political discourse with terms like “blame America first” liberals. Later, the highly educated House speaker Newt Gingrich and the subsequent Tea Party movement began taking unprecedented extreme positions, driving out GOP moderates who might seek common ground with Democrats. In recent times, the Trump White House introduced the intellectually dishonest concept of “alternative facts” and rallied Republicans behind the Big Lie of an allegedly stolen election.
Hopeful, constructive efforts toward “opening minds” and “humanizing both sides” were once generally embraced by Americans of all education levels. While multiple factors have led to our dangerous polarization, it is right-wing media and Republican leaders who bear responsibility for sowing mistrust of science, pushing conspiracy theories, and egging on our current political and cultural divides.
Jeffrey R. Stone