The Toxicity of Partisanship

I followed the Kavanaugh/Blasey-Ford hearing yesterday, like many Americans. I started off the day with my own beliefs about the situation, like everyone else did. Those beliefs remained pretty much unchanged over the course of the day, and from what I saw, neither did anyone else’s. And that’s the problem with this whole thing.

The way these accusations were handled wasn’t fair to either person involved. It should have been heard by a neutral party, preferably on a less-rushed time frame than this has been. Instead it was rushed into a Senate hearing, where both sides doing the questioning had made up their minds going in and staked huge political consequences on who wins. It’s not about the truth. It’s not about justice. It’s not even about selecting the best candidate for the Court anymore. It’s about defeating the other side.

I’ve been thinking lately that partisanship is our number one biggest issue in this country, because the unwillingness to compromise massively inhibits growth and change. This confirms that, since it apparently also inhibits due process at the most consequential level. And the partisanship problem isn’t just limited to Washington; it affects all of us. It floods down into social media, into our workplaces, into our homes. It blinds us to nuance. It prohibits us from changing our minds, especially publicly. It makes us afraid. It divides us completely. If you’re one, you can’t fraternize with the other. Sorry, not sorry.

I’m guilty of all of this. I make knee-jerk reactions to things based on my beliefs. I let my biases rule me. It’s so, so difficult to pull myself out of the mire of being righteously correct and try to objectively look at the other side, or even just admit that the other side has some good points. I think this would happen no matter what state our government is in, but what’s our incentive to encourage objectivity when clearly that’s not how it works at the top?

George Washington was not a perfect man, but he did predict this would happen. We should have listened.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

-George Washington, at his farewell address on September 17, 1796 Source

Photo by Paulo Silva on Unsplash


  1. I could not agree more. The division between political parties is terrible! We think of the other side as evil, hateful, uninformed, naive. Each one of us wants to belong to a “tribe”, but at what cost? We need to dial back the rhetoric and focus more on doing what is in the best interest of the majority of the citizens and focus less on “winning”. Ugh!

  2. Those founding fathers were astoundingly gifted with foresight and reason. I caught part of Kavanaugh’s testimony on NPR yesterday–the part where Kavanaugh and Sen. Klobuchar were squabbling about blacking out from drinking. I was simply disgusted. I agree with you the entire rhetoric of the nation needs to change. We’re currently, as a country, void of respect and reason. Of course, like everyone else, I’m mostly pointing at the other side.

    • I feel like division is one of those natural human nature things that we should fight against bc ultimately it’s the better thing to do. But no one bothers. (Me included.)

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