Resolving to do more

To the Jounal editor:

I recently read a book entitled “How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. The authors presented a depressing review of numerous countries with democracies that were replaced with authoritarian governments and how that occurred.

I’ve always believed that our Constitution and the checks and balances within it could prevent something like that from happening in the United States. The authors point out, however, that in addition to a strong legal foundation, democracy is also dependent on mutual toleration for differing opinions, as well as respect for societal norms that prevent trying to win at all costs.

Over the past 30 years, tolerance and avoidance of scorched-earth tactics has eroded in the U.S. Partisanship has become more pronounced as there are fewer issues with much degree of cross-over between our two political parties.

Governing is more often described as “fighting for” rather than “accomplishing.” Compromise is less likely and even viewed as weakness. People with other views are termed “enemies.”

There is disagreement about things that formerly would have been accepted by all as fact and media that reports something objectively true can be vilified. The most recent and blatant examples of incivility are taunts hurled between legislators, which are disturbingly similar to what you might hear between kids on the playground.

Democracy is more fragile than we were taught in civics class and many people feel like things are headed in the wrong direction. How can we reverse a three-decade trend? Unfortunately, nobody has a pat answer for that.

For what it’s worth, however, here’s my New Year’s resolution for what I intend to do. I’m going to start reading and viewing more mainstream media that is slanted toward the opposite side of the partisan divide.

I’m going to seek out people with views other than my own and attempt to listen, without interruption, to their thoughts. I will continue to speak out on issues I feel strongly about but I’m going to try to avoid attributing motives (even in my mind) to others with different stances.

Since 2020 is an election year, absolute requirements for those I support and vote for will be their willingness to be tolerant, to promote compromise, to be civil, and to be honest.

I think our country is in trouble. My approach may be quixotic, but what else can any of us do?