The best approach to politics and life in general is to listen, particularly to those who have a different view, try to understand their life stories and avoid attributing bad motives. This may lead to occasional disappointments, but for the most part it adds richness and wisdom to life.

In today’s political world this view may seem naive. It has not been a model for recent success. Success seems to require personal attacks, disrespect for your opponent, name-calling and demagoguery. Remember “Lying Ted,” “Little Marco” and “Hillary for Prison”.

Temporary success does not mean that these tactics are right or will result in ultimate success. In the long run, most of us will be drawn to the American story that unites us by our shared values. Whether we are Republicans, Democrats, whatever our ethnicity, we are bound by a common destiny.

This is not the first time that political fever has been high. We have always found a way to live with our differences and move forward. Eventually, we will find our way back to a saner political world. Joplin has not been entirely protected from divisive madness. For example, a local mosque was burned to the ground, but this depravity was universally condemned. Although extreme and corrosive political views lurk in the background, this poison has not taken over the local public debate. In our city councils, school boards, churches, civic organizations and in our neighborhoods, we seem to maintain civility and express our differences with respect for diverse points of view.

This is why I was troubled by a recent opinion column in The Joplin Globe by Geoff Caldwell, a local columnist and opinion leader. On Oct. 15, Caldwell, who has compelling rhetorical skills, used his gifts to picture the debate of right versus left as a battle of “facts and reason on one side and feelings and emotion on the other.” He charged that “if there is anything the left does well, it’s manipulating minds to dutifully fall into ideological lines.” I could write this off to hyperbolic partisan rhetoric except for his closing exhortation that “the time for compromise has passed.”

Caldwell has been building to this climax for several months. On July 23, when three Republican senators broke with their party on the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he accused them of “betrayal” and “cowardice.”

On July 30, he wrote about his particular disgust for Sen. John McCain, suggesting that because he was a POW, he had an attitude of entitlement. He attacked Sen. McCain for his lack of “courage” and a betrayal of his party. Whatever you may think of John McCain and his politics, mocking his political independence is the type of personal attack that exemplifies what is worst in our politics and in the media.

Caldwell continued with his hyperpartisan tone in his article of Oct. 29, “Orange is a new color of hope.” He fancifully imagined Hillary Clinton in an orange prison jumpsuit because her campaign continued opposition research that had been started by Donald Trump’s Republican opponents in the 2016 primary.

We have unprincipled politicians, shock jock media stars and Russian trolls on Facebook trying to make us turn on each other for selfish personal gain. We do not need more voices with such divisive clamor.

Geoff Caldwell’s hyperpartisanship is wrong for our country and wrong for Southwest Missouri. Casting good faith political differences as epic battles between good and evil is not helpful. Demonizing those who seek compromise does not represent the best of our American legacy. This extremist rhetoric drives us to our tribal corners and corrupts and paralyzes our political process. This is a time when we face daunting challenges, and we cannot afford this toxic rancor. If we are going to keep America great, we need to be true to our time honored American values of tolerance and respect for each other and for our diverse points of view. We must realize that in a democracy, you never get everything you want, and it is never too late for compromise.

Charles Buchanan is a Joplin attorney.

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