Harbison: Political Polarization

Jim Harbison
Our current political polarization prevents any significant progress throughout all levels of government. Nationally, we have not been able to pass a budget. It was supposed to be passed more than nine months ago and should have been a simple process for the Democrats because they controlled the Congress and the White House. Unfortunately, with the pending elections they chose not to make the hard budget decisions because they might adversely impact Democrat elections.
Here we are now trying to pass another “continuing resolution” to fund the government for the remainder of the current budget year instead of working on critical policy issues. Neither political party is willing to actually sit down and seriously discuss what is important and necessary for the benefit of the American people. They have become so politically rigid that they have lost track of their purpose and the ability to work together.
This polarization exists at state and local levels. New Mexicans overwhelmingly wanted to eliminate driver’s licenses for illegals and a bi-partisan bill was passed by the House but died in the Senate on partisan lines. It wasn’t defeated on its merit but by the Democrat Party trying to send a strong message to the newly elected Republican governor that partisan politics would continue to rule New Mexico.
Even Las Cruces is plagued with the partisan divide between common sense legislation and political polarization and the issue doesn’t seem to matter. At the last City Council meeting members of the public wanted to challenge the City Council on its support of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). This United Nations sanctioned organization has been the source of much recent discussion and is opposed by many people. A member from the Dona Ana Democrat Party sent out an email alert urging Democrats to attend the Council meeting. According to the email they (the well-educated, literate, critically thinking) would be the “sane majority” to counter the “Tea Party Crackpots” that would be there supporting the “claptrap, nonsense and bizarre beliefs” and the “conspiracy theorists” who oppose Agenda 21. They fear that public opinion might actually defeat or eliminate the ICLEI suggested sustainability programs like those being eliminated in increasing numbers of cities and counties across the nation.
Rather than discuss the issue on its merits the Democrats chose to resort to name calling to attempt to discredit those opposing Agenda 21. Using this tactic they never have to defend their position on the merits of any issue. This has been their pattern for a long time and in my opinion is the primary reason our nation is in the situation we now find ourselves. Civil discussion is paramount to a democratic society. Constitutionally, we have freedom of speech but unfortunately, when it comes to political discussions, we have lost the ability to talk to and respect each other. It is no longer fashionable, or politically acceptable, to be the “friendly opposition” where we can agree to disagree and still respect each other.
I am reminded of an old admonition that should be applied in all discussions: “Those who hold different opinions entertain them as honestly as you do and you have no right to deny or doubt their sincerity and never harshly denounce an opinion that more experience or investigation may someday compel you to adopt, and therefore always treat your opponents as if their opinions may at some time become your own”.
Adoption of this philosophy would certainly improve the civility of our discussions and enhance the respect we show to each other and facilitate social and legislative progress.



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