Divisive political dialogue damaging, increasingly toxic


Friday, Nov. 9, 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized after fracturing three ribs in a fall. Naturally, this resulted in political tension. Many far-right Twitter accounts failed to show proper respect after the incident. Unfortunately, it feels as if disregarding the humanity of political figures is the norm. Degrading and even violent rhetoric seems to reign in today’s political climate.

At the end of October, mail bombs were sent to a number of Democratic politicians and donors, including former United States President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For many, such an extreme incident seemed inevitable as a result of the rhetoric so often used in politics today.

After all, our own President Donald Trump constantly dehumanizes others through name-calling and ad hominem attacks, including those in his own party. This is evidenced by Trump’s comments about Republican candidates who lost midterm elections in his recent post-election news conference.

However, threatening rhetoric toward political figures is not by any means one sided. The night of Wednesday, Nov. 7, a group of anti-fascist protesters rallied outside the family home of Tucker Carlson, a Fox News personality who generally supports Trump, chanting, “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!” They also hung signs on his property. This sort of threatening intrusion into the personal lives of public figures has become a pattern over the last couple of years.

Now, however, the same rhetoric used against public figures is being extended to whole groups. In the midterm elections, the majority of white women voted for Republican candidates including Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp and against progressive Democrats including Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Gillum and Stacy Abrams. A storm of explicit tweets immediately poured in, cursing the white female demographic and claiming that these women are being used as “tools of the patriarchy.”

Actress Heather Matarazzo used violent language, telling white women to “choke to death” on the patriarchy. Not only is this rhetoric alienating to the population Democrats need to win elections, but more importantly, it suggests that women do not have brains of their own and, therefore, should be wiped out of existence. This idea is undemocratic, anti-feminist and shows a disregard for the value of human life.

Here at the College of William and Mary, there are a wide variety of political groups encouraging strong stances and activism. We should fight hard for the causes in which we believe, but we should take the recent trend of violent political rhetoric as a warning of what happens when politics become all-consuming. The other side using violent tactics does not excuse one’s own; rather, rational discussion can bring consensus or at least a peaceful agreement to disagree.

As the Declaration of Independence says, all humankind is created equal — each of us should treat others with equal dignity and respect, regardless of political affiliation.

Email Chloe Folmar at csfolmar@email.wm.edu.