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We can do better

If you need further proof (I doubt  you do) that national politics are poisoned, look no further than Joe Biden’s recent comments about Vice President Mike Pence.

In a speech criticizing President Trump, Biden said this: “The fact of the matter is it was followed on by a guy who’s a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, ‘I’m here on behalf of President Trump,’ and there was dead silence. Dead silence.”

Biden was making the point that Trump’s reputation on the world state is so damaged that even a “decent guy” like Pence gets the silent treatment when he stands in for Trump.

And to Biden’s surprise, he was quickly criticized for calling Pence “decent.”

The left’s response was to pounce on Biden because he dared called a Republican “decent.” And Biden backtracked and clarified that he did not think Pence was decent after all.

It is unlikely that Biden and Pence are buddies, but both come from a time when other politicians, even those on the opposite side, are given a certain amount of courtesy and respect in public. You might not agree with anything the guy stands for, but he deserves descriptions like “decent” or “nice” or “honest.”

There was once a time when politicians shared an unspoken agreement to avoid petty name-calling or disrespectful jabs in public — even if they cursed each other in private. A certain amount of decorum was expected.

But those days are long gone. A potential presidential candidate can’t even call a Republican “decent” without suffering the wrath of his party.

President Trump, it goes without saying, has taken name-calling and disrespect to an unheard-of low point. His schoolyard taunts on Twitter sure are entertaining, but they accomplish nothing except to sow division.

But don’t blame Trump for the toxic politics we are inundated with daily. Don’t blame the so-called “radical left” either. The blame lies with us, the American people.

We have decided that this behavior is acceptable. We have encouraged this behavior at political rallies, campaign events and with our votes and donations. We have taken those vile cues and amplified them on social media, in our families and at our workplaces.

It’s to the point where most of us no longer notice how vicious politics has gotten. The constant barrage of name-calling we wouldn’t dare allow our children to spew has become the normal for our political leaders.

And whether we want to admit it or not, it affects us as citizens of this great country. It gives us permission to indulge our worst sides. We once looked to our nation’s leaders as an example of many things: courage, honesty, integrity, justice.  Sure, we always knew they weren’t perfect but at least they respected their offices enough to put on a good show when they were in front of the public (most of them anyway). But today’s leaders no longer bother with pretending they are anything other than self-serving, dishonest, hateful individuals who will say or do just about anything to get re-elected.

Sadly, we now look to them as champions of our worst impulses.

I doubt there’s any going back to better times. Civility is all but lost and restoring it will be difficult. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We can collectively decide that other humans deserve a certain amount of respect, if only because they are human. We can hold our tongues and our keyboards. We can choose to see our political enemy as only that, a political enemy but not a personal one. We can try, as painful as it may be, to see someone else’s perspective.

We can do better.

Email publisher Luke Horton at luke.horton@dailyleader.com