Gary Smith: We can survive the political divide
On March 13, our Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on the death penalty punishment in California by executive order.
This unilateral action has bypassed the legislative branch and ignored the will of the voters. California less than three years ago in 2016 passed Proposition 62 and 66 reaffirming our support of the death penalty, in spite of its shortcomings and also speeding up the appeal process.
California Gov. Gray Davis got recalled in 2003 for a lot less than Gov. Newsom’s recent action. We are so partisan now that I doubt Gov. Newsom will pay a price for his action. Executive orders should never be used by any leader instead of legislative action, as they only increase our political divide because it is not an inclusive process. In this case the end did not justify the means; it rarely does.
This executive order by Gov. Newsom is the same type of unilateral action repeatedly done by President Trump that has been protested against so loudly. Yet when Gov. Newsom behaves the same as President Trump, his supporters are silent. The same silence holds true for President Trump’s supporters when he crosses the line, though the president being more outspoken occasionally does get some blowback.
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It is unfortunate that Americans have become so polarized that we do not call out bad behavior and poor decisions if our political side is committing them. Polarization makes compromise extremely difficult and solutions to our country’s real problems nearly impossible.
Thinking back to the 1980s, I remember President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill and how they interacted with each other. Though not a Reagan supporter I believe the president got his way most of time, but when it was important they found common ground and compromised. More importantly it was not a personal attack on the other when they disagreed.
To get long-term solutions to our problems we need bipartisan solutions. This only happens when both sides respect and listen to each other, we should accept nothing less. Long-term solutions do not happen by one side ramming a solution down the other’s throat. The next time the other side is in power that one-sided solution is reversed and our problem still persists. As we continue to retreat to our opposite corners, we have stopped listening to the other side not only because we believe they are wrong, but also they are bad people.
We attach labels to them and paint them with a broad brush; it has become so personal. Granted there are a few that deserve that paint job, but certainly not all of them. I have several very conservative friends and when Obama was our president they would react very negatively to some of his comments and say how divisive he was. I was perplexed because I did not feel these particular comments were divisive, just maybe not what I believed. I accepted their reactions, that is how they saw it, they were still good guys. That really drove home the point that people with different viewpoints can hear the same speech and come to a totally different conclusion; that does not make them bad people.
The solution starts with us, if we choose to only seek out views reaffirming our own and let the media, along with both parties, push us into opposite corners for their own gain, nothing will change.
I try not to live in the past, but we all need to get back to listening and not assume that all people of the opposite viewpoint are evil. Don’t accept poor decisions and bad behavior by politicians of your own party — and certainly don’t vote for them, no matter what!
I have to admit I am pessimistic we can get back to civil discourse, but maybe, just maybe it is not too late.
Conservatives survived eight years of Obama and progressives will survive Trump.
Gary Smith is a retired elections administrator who has lived in Grass Valley for 30 years.
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