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It seems long ago that Americans from both major political parties co-existed in relative accord.

Taking harsh sides and publicly smearing each other simply because we embrace differing worldviews once was considered uncivil and unproductive. Political parties disagreed, but generally still worked toward ways to govern together for the overall benefit of our nation and its citizens.

Yet once upon a time in America, greed, power-mongering and selfishness didn't strike me as the driving force behind their efforts as they do today. We once referred to this uncivilized, scorched-earth method as "Machiavellian," or using any means to gain one's desired goals. It's been only in the past decade that I recall such rigid partisanship controlling the entire process of governing our diverse nation.

In contrast, former 3rd District GOP Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt, who served 13 terms in Congress, once told me the colleagues who were most kind and helpful when he arrived in D.C. in the early 1960s as the state's only Republican congressman proved to be Democratic colleagues such as Sen. J.W. Fulbright and Rep. Wilbur Mills.

Today, ugly division has steadily intensified. Both parties have continually blocked each others' attempts in stubborn, childlike power struggles to put their own interests ahead of what's necessarily best for all Americans.

Yes, I understand political fighting is nothing necessarily new. Yet it's reached the point here in 2018 where we must sincerely ask when, if ever, does the third-grade approach toward governing the greatest nation on earth finally return to some semblance of adult, thoughtful and productive exchange?

What's fueling the widespread anger with our political system, a frustration that feels to me and so many others conspicuously calculated to divide us in part of some well-financed larger plan?

I believe much of the mainstream media has been instrumental in fostering, even promoting, this division between everything from political persuasions to races, genders and even religion. Rather than choosing objectivity and fair play, much of the major media clearly has opted to take obvious and open sides politically. The elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump only confirm this.

The wearying drumbeat of documented negative press aimed squarely at this president in particular has played a major role in continually fomenting dissension in the year since his inauguration.

Such turmoil over all things political has forced most Americans to choose sides on various inflammatory issues including race, immigration, sanctuary cities, police killings, abortion and even Christian bakers punished because of their religious convictions while the practices of other faiths are obviously ignored as if being protected from criticism.

News is filled with endless political stories (frequently out of proportion) couched in negative and accusatory tones and phrasings that cause even this veteran journalist to cringe from the obvious bias and vilifications that trigger emotional reactions in so many Americans.

I recently read that publisher and statesman Benjamin Franklin is said to have reflected on the enormous public influence the press wielded and how he feared it could redefine its liberties as the "liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another." What an oracle, that Franklin. He couldn't fathom what amounts to the weaponizing of today's take-no-prisoners Internet.

It wasn't that long ago when many citizens with varying political ideas were sincere in selflessly saying: "While I may not agree with your views, I would die for your freedom to express them." Anyone else remember?

How I miss that distinctly American attitude. Today in some venues (aka Berkeley) those who express views counter to the uber-radical are disinvited, shouted down and even provide an excuse for public chaos.

In this contentious and litigious society we've allowed to take root, rational discourse and negotiation are indeed but fond memories. Our two primary parties, and those who lead them, have decided over the past decade the best approach toward effective governance is to oppose en masse virtually every decision from the other side. As with sheep: "We shall narrow-mindedly vote no on every proposal!"

And when political no votes are insufficient to block the majority, national decisions often become challenged in selected courtrooms overseen by equally politicized federal judges who swore an oath to remain neutral. That ugly tactic enables an appointed federal lawyer to serve as stopgap dictatorial decider even over the decisions of a duly elected president.

Resist at every turn! Yes, Americans today certainly understand the simplistic and destructive approach from both sides that only perpetuates the widespread anger. Incidentally, those combative and knee-jerk "tweets" from President Trump only needlessly fuel those flames.

I honestly hope, no, pray, our elected leaders will regain some sense of rationality and civility for the sake of our children and the future of these United States of America, which today stand sadly ununited.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 01/09/2018

Print Headline: Third-grade politics

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