As you might expect, there's been reaction to last week's missive "By Degrees…one headline at a time." Most complimentary, some questioning and one or two personal attacks that completely ignore the issues at hand, but instead concentrate on the messenger rather than the message.
That mix was expected. The number of responses, while gratifying and easily outnumbering those usually received, was not. One early message, from a longtime acquaintance and family friend I presume to be Republican, struck a chord. It went like this:
"I must say that your article is spot on in many ways. The only thing on which you are mistaken, in my humble opinion, is that the verse you employ to make your point should apply to both Republicans and Democrats. I believe we, in the mainstream, are tired of the rantings of both."
I couldn't agree more, especially with that last sentence. It's something I struggled with before submitting last week's column before finally surrendering to the competing demands of a word limit and the desire to use the verses in Mark Erelli's song that first sparked the topic.
Any implication that the song applied only to the current administration is on me, caused solely by my own words between the verses. Rereading the lyrics of "By Degrees" carefully, they easily apply to all sides of the polarized political spectrum. Lines like "Against a map of red and blue, points of view so cut and dried" do exactly that. Others, while less specific, still concern issues where, as citizens and without regard to party affiliation, we've collectively dropped the ball.
But it is true that our perceptions include context … the landscape and personal filters through which we view things. Sometimes the shoe fits. For some, in the context of current events, it may be a little snug.
I've felt the need to loosen the laces on my own ideological footwear from time to time. Here's an example, discussing the Democratic takeover of the House, from a New Year column less than a year ago.
"Most telling will be whether, with their new majority, they'll be using their rear view mirror, consumed with investigations, subpoenas and hearings and efforts toward impeachment. Or will they use their windshield and be looking forward, making serious attempts to move the needle on issues. Will breaking the cycle of blame and retribution that we've been stuck in for at least four administrations now, an effort that will necessarily substitute bipartisanship for obstinacy, be too much to dream?"
That New Year dream has become a nightmare for both Democrats and Republicans.
What remains to be seen is how a Senate impeachment trial goes. The outcome is pretty much known. It's the process that will be interesting, especially after recalling it was votes by GOP senators in a Republican-controlled Senate that acquitted Bill Clinton and Republican leaders from Congress who journeyed to the White House to tell Richard Nixon it was over.
Here's an excerpt from a mid-year column that may explain why those scenarios are not likely to be repeated.
"With the notable exception of some trying years a century and a half ago when Americans chose blue or gray uniforms and were actually shooting at one another in places like Vicksburg and Antietam, we're more politically divided than we've ever been.
"It's not just that we look at the same set of circumstances and reach different conclusions. It's the fact that we seem to relish those differences, revel in our "holier than thou" absolutist attitudes regarding those who don't share our stances. That we actually seek out opportunities to exacerbate those differences, to broaden the chasms that separate us, to throw gasoline on the fires we set and fan the flames."
Which brings me to another reaction to last week's column, this one from a Republican friend.
"It has occurred to me, she wrote, "that the leaders of the Democratic Party are missing the point that a lot of average people hate the democratic dogma (socialism and "free" everything) worse than they hate Donald Trump."
Whether you agree or not, and I worry that the lurch to the left by some Democrats may do as much damage as the run to the right has done for Republicans, it's a timely reminder that the lesser of two evils is still evil.
Jim Spehar will move on to other topics next week. Comments welcome to email@example.com.