If you’ve ventured online since the election, chances are you’ve walked directly into a battleground of harsh words exchanged between the most vocal of triumphant Trump supporters, wounded Clinton supporters, and already scarred-over Sanders supporters.
Maybe you’ve even had one of these debates away from your keyboard, in the real world. Madison Parkers are certainly well-positioned to do so -- 28 percent of the neighborhood’s voters put in for Trump in the election, compared to just 8 percent citywide, according to an analysis of King County electoral returns by The Seattle Times’ Justin Mayo.
But I wonder if that’s the case. I’m part of the last generation to have had a pre-internet childhood. How many of us were told it wasn’t polite to discuss politics in mixed company? I would guess the answer is “a lot.”
Of course, the important phrase in that rule was “mixed company.” For all the modern ire toward the idea of “safe spaces,” Americans have always preferred to talk politics when they’re preaching to the choir. It feels soft, snuggly and familiar inside our own views. Everything outside feels, by contrast, hard, jagged and hostile.
But it can be just as hostile on the inside, can’t it? If we’re being honest? I’m hard-pressed to remember a recent City Council meeting that didn’t include a verbal flogging in public comment. Citywide, I would characterize even our angriest political debates as a fundamentally healthy dialogue. But it’s a dialogue enabled by the comfort of knowing our divisions are between the blue and the bluer. When I started my career reporting on communities in south King and Pierce counties, the division was red and redder.
The dirty little secret — in local politics at least, where we all have to figure out how to pay for our roads, our police and our human services — is that underneath the red and blue garments are bodies in shades of purple.
Lately I’ve been reading “Adams and Jefferson: A Revolutionary Dialogue.” The U.S. Constitution was written without political parties in mind and George Washington was elected to the first presidency as a nonpartisan (Perhaps that is why the vice presidency originally went to the runner-up in elections). It took less than four years for Congress and Washington’s cabinet to organically divide into Federalists and Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans.
This was probably necessary to resolve certain issues of governance unresolved in the Constitution — Washington himself ended his presidency as a Federalist — yet his farewell address warned against the “ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction.” He had seen party politics tear apart his advisers — particularly John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who had been fast friends during their co-ambassadorship to France. After their presidencies the two didn’t speak for years.
Yet the two men did reconcile late in life. On their politics? Lord, no. Each had instead taken time to research, understand and ultimately adopt parts of the other’s philosophy -- that is, Jefferson’s Enlightenment humanism and Adams’ Protestantism. Adams said that he “read himself out of bigotry.”
We will never find ourselves in total accordance. But as we end 2016, I hope we can all resolve to follow Adams’ and Jefferson’s example.