I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of feeling sickened. Our nasty politics of revenge, our unabating obsession with hating the other side, our too-quick-to-cancel culture and our fetishization of extreme purity is not only exhausting but it’s making us sick.
It’s in President Trump’s puerile tweets and anger-drenched rallies, where he demeans and mocks his political enemies, real and perceived.
It’s also in many of his policies, like a Muslim ban, family separation and anti-LGBTQ legislation that’s punitive purely for the sake of delighting bigoted supporters.
It’s in Congress, where the parties have decided that working together is downright traitorous and a sign of weakness.
It’s in our culture, where we routinely experiment with banning speech we don’t like and destroying the lives and careers of people who say it. It’s in the revenge fantasies that used to be reserved for sociopaths, but that now get a shrug when public personalities like actor Robert De Niro openly fantasizes about throwing a “bag of s—t” at the president’s face, or right-wing radio host Michael Savage wishes Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be infected by the coronavirus.
Seriously, this is who we are now.
And yes, it’s in our media, where we devote entirely too much time to “owning” the other side, whether that’s slamming the left as elitist “libtards” or mocking the right as “credulous boomer rubes.” That should be beneath us.
Whether you’re on the far left, the far right or the ever-shrinking center, this unending, level-11 vitriol is unsustainable and unbearable. No one should feel compelled to be this angry at other people all the time.
It feels like some of the people running for president have little desire to break this fever. They recognize that many of the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 were motivated by anger and fear. Trump, of course, is re-invigorating that anger and fear to try to win again, and some Democratic candidates are trying their best to tap into similar veins on their side of the aisle.
We should ask: Do we want this climate to continue?
I recently interviewed businessman and Democratic candidate Andrew Yang. We talked about how a person like me — right of center and anti-Trump — might vote in November. I said I didn’t know yet, but I couldn’t support a Democrat who I thought truly hated my dad, a Trump supporter. (Nor could I support a Republican who I thought truly hated my gay best friend or immigrant neighbor.)
Yang recoiled at the notion, and made it clear he didn’t want to be in that category. Now, I don’t know if Yang will be the Democratic nominee or if ultimately I could back his policies, but I don’t believe he hates people like my dad.
I can’t say the same for others.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have made their animosities known. They may couch their anger in capitalized institutions — Wall Street, Corporate America, Billionaires, Fossil Fuels — but there are people behind those institutions, from saleswomen to janitors, accountants to factory workers.
Mike Bloomberg, in his 11th hour cash-dump, has tacitly admitted that voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states don’t matter. And anyone familiar with his efforts to ban or over-regulate baby formula, trans-fats, salt, sugary drinks and plenty of other legal substances knows too well his belief that ordinary folks can’t and shouldn’t make their own decisions.
On the other hand, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, along with Yang, seem to be able to distinguish between disagreement and disdain, to compartmentalize policies from people.
Respect for people you disagree with is hard to fake, and contempt is hard to mask. Case in point: When Hillary Clinton called half of Trump voters “deplorables” in 2016, that moment was damaging not because it was so egregious on its face, but because it seemed to reveal something she’d been trying to hide.
You learn the most about a politician when they say the quiet parts out loud. In Trump’s case, he screams them. And if we’re truly tired of this, we should be wary of the candidates who similarly stoke divisiveness, who lean on the same us-versus-them instincts to sell their messages. Because we can’t sustain this level of anger for another four years. To be perfectly honest, I can barely handle another four minutes of it. So let’s find ourselves a candidate who makes us feel better, not worse.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp: Unfiltered” on CNN.
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