Now only a few weeks before the national election, I feel like we are doomed no matter who wins in November. Not for the reason many other people feel we are doomed — because our country yet again will be forced to choose between the “lesser of two evils” — but because our nation is more politically divided than ever.
And this political divide is by design.
Political leaders WANT our country to be divided because it is better for them to potentially get elected. Political division upholds the duopoly that Democrats and Republicans have on our government. It keeps Independents, Progressives, and Libertarians from achieving any political power, and prevents any other political party from having any chance at garnering viable support. (I talk more in depth about the political duopoly in my article on Ranked Choice Voting).
Government officials on both sides and at all levels sell their integrity for political gains and don’t blink an eye at their own hypocrisy. (Right now all the Conservatives are thinking — yes! Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton are perfect examples of this! And all the Liberals are thinking — yes! Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are perfect examples of this!)
But somehow despite sitting on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was able to be close friends with her colleague, Antonin Scalia.
Ginsburg on Scalia after his death in 2016:
“I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.”
Many people around the world — Liberals and Conservatives — have mourned Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. She was no doubt a champion for women’s rights. And she likely made the progress she did because
She wasn’t an asshole.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not use techniques of intimidation, political black balling, or humiliation. She stood up for what she believed in, and also made a conscious effort to hear the opposition. She pivoted her strategy to be the most effective for the audience she was attempting to persuade, and her dissents spoke to facts rather than making personal jabs at her colleagues.
It takes a lot more work and intellect to be civil to your opposition.
But it is ultimately more effective than the current political strategy of “might makes right,” or “whoever has the most political leverage wins.”
The Dominance Strategy is INEFFECTIVE
and is the reason why we are at a DEAD STOP on most political issues. Again, this is by design. If you continuously have the same problems, you continuously need to re-elect the same people to keep battling the same opposition. It keeps the same (even if their names are different, they’re still the same) white men in power and keeps pumping more and more money into their political campaigns.
It’s not surprising that individuals deeply invested in this duopoly 1) refuse to see that they are part of the problem (it is the opposition that is at fault for being terrible, obvi!) and 2) dig their heels into the pavement and refuse to budge (because if they do, that shows weakness, betrays their moral standings, and the opposition wins, obvi!)
We have become so polarized that being willing to listen and find common ground or engage with the opposition at all is seen as treasonous.
If anyone deviates from their political party’s ideologies, they are seen as traitors. If anyone tries to engage with someone of a differing political party, they are seen as traitors — or at least their intentions are questioned. (Are they a RINO/DINO?)
It takes a lot more brain power to formulate an individual opinion on every issue. It takes a lot more brain power to find creative solutions instead of saying “No, I’m right and you’re wrong. Period.”
And unfortunately, our political leaders often fan the flames of polarization rather than calling for compromise, creative solutions, or unification.
These politicians (Democrat AND Republican) don’t realize — or maybe they do! — that this intentional polarization is often to blame for the lack of progress made on our most pressing issues. How? If you don’t respect your opposition, then they will lose respect for you, and then they won’t want to work with you, and they will sabotage any success you might try to achieve.
If you’re RBG, however, then you know you can (and WILL) achieve great success against great opposition by being persuasive rather than demeaning.
She had to accomplish these goals (and so many more) by appealing to sexist men with a lot more power than she had (at the time). And she did it by sticking to the facts, garnering the respect of her peers, and not pushing anyone against her success by demonizing, intimidating, or demeaning them. (PS, I am not saying I am already great at this. For example, I didn’t hesitate to tell my town’s mayor what an asshole hypocrite he is. At least I’m self-aware and want to do better?)
To honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg and to continue her legacy, befriend someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum and find common ground and creative solutions. It takes more work and more intellect than simply calling names and saying how awful the opposition is, but it will ultimately be what saves our communities, our country, our sanity, and our spirits.
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