Jeff Martin

Five years ago, I wrote, “I’ve always believed that healthy debate, variety of opinion and civil disagreement was the American way, but nowadays it’s always ‘liberal this and right-wing that’ and there appears to be no middle ground anymore, only name calling.”  

     The situation has unfortunately become even worse as the country has grown angrier and more divisive. Did the election of Trump ruin your family’s Thanksgiving? We had a few empty seats at our holiday table last year that were, in large part, attributed to political divide. One study I read showed on average Democrats shortened their 2016 Thanksgiving visits to Republican households 20 to 40 minutes. Republicans visiting Democrats didn’t even stick around for dessert, shortening their visits by 50 to 70 minutes.

    Now political strife has caused divisiveness even within the two political parties themselves.

   Moderates and business-minded Republicans are struggling to accept that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. With the election of Trump a new faction of nationalist conservatives came to power, causing some of the Republican base to be concerned about how the GOP will be defined moving forward.

    Democrats are going through their own identity crisis. Considered the party of inclusion, the Democratic Party is wrestling with internal struggles as progressives have become a louder voice in the party.

    “You have to recognize that the way we structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you, and that by definition means you’re not going to get 100% of what you want,” said former President Barack Obama at a recent town-hall-style event.

    He continued by saying Democrats sometimes create “what’s called a ‘circular firing squad,’ where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.”

    Liberals and conservatives are the yin and yang of our political system, providing needed balance as both sides view things from different perspectives. It would prove helpful if the two sides stopped attacking and instead started dialoguing with one another.

    I’ve been called a liberal and I’m cool with that, although my political philosophy is too complex to be summarized by one word. I do take offense when conservative politicians use the term “liberal” in their political rhetoric as if it were a synonym for Lucifer. The word has become a political slur freely used by politicians and pundits for the sole purpose of causing chaos and divide among the electorate. I find this ironic, because, you know, Jesus was a liberal. Just sayin’.

   I believe that my politics, my faith and my way of thinking represent the majority of Americans. Mind you, I said Americans, not Alabamians. I fully understand my opinion doesn’t always jive with the conservative South. And that’s okay, but there is no need for name-calling. Liberalism is not a radical or extreme belief as some might have you believe.

    Personally I consider myself to be of pretty good character and I like to think people who know me agree. I believe that opinions should be valued, differences respected and compromise accepted. I have often been asked if I have many Republican friends. My standard response is, “Of course - I live in Alabama. Without Republican friends, I might have none.” I’ve even been known to vote for a few.

   In today’s political climate, both liberals and conservatives are increasingly pressured not to even consider what the other side has to say. We have moved away from the center and compromise is seldom seen as an option, despite the fact that it is the foundation of our political system.

    Our political differences shouldn’t divide us as a country. We should strive for more bipartisanship and encourage our elected officials to find common ground by working together for the betterment of America. Let’s begin electing political leaders who aren’t afraid to lose the next election, who are problem solvers and not dividers, and who are willing to consider all options and not just those found in their party’s playbook.