Editorial: Turn the heat down

By the time you read this, the votes will have been counted and the winners congratulated. Lawn signs will start falling and political ads will give way to one ad after another, encouraging us all to take a leap in our holiday shopping.

Election day often feels like the end. In fact, it’s supposed to be the beginning. Once voters have made up their minds, the real work of public service begins.

Winning an election simply gives a representative the opportunity to make a difference. How they do it, and whether that change ultimately turns out to be positive or negative, comes after that.

There are a lot of big issues facing the state right now. The impact of record inflation cannot be underestimated, and the fuel crisis, caused in large part by the war in Ukraine and dwindling supply in Europe, has everyone on edge as time shifts to colder temperatures.

Late last month, Eversource, along with other national and regional utility companies, sent a letter to President Joe Biden encouraging his administration to take immediate action to avert the possibility of power outages this winter. The state and the country face real concerns, concerns that newly elected officials will be called upon to address upon taking office.

But there is another problem that still deserves our attention. Political rhetoric is always at its height during the election campaign, a reality that voters have become accustomed to, even accept. Yet these days, the tenor of our political discourse seems to remain at a fever pitch, whether an election is near or in the distant future. It seems that, for many, political opponents are now seen as sworn enemies – an important distinction that has toxic consequences.

After all, one can seek to defeat an adversary while respecting him and his motives. In terms of athletics, an opponent must be beaten on the field, but only within the rules of the game and always in a respectful manner. An enemy, on the other hand, must be defeated at all costs, giving individuals the excuse to work outside the rules and, sometimes, the laws of the land.

Presenting each election as the “last” for democracy unless its political opponents are removed from office not only goes against the ideals of democracy – that its institutions remain strong no matter which party is in power – but can also be used to create an unhealthy or even dangerous environment. We’ve seen political violence increase lately, whether it’s the foiled assassination attempt on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh or the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, at the couple’s San Francisco home for the past two years. weeks.

Of course, no one should be asked to censor a speech based on the assumption that some unhinged individual will use it as an excuse to do harm. You can never know exactly what will trigger a mentally unstable person, so trying to tailor speech to avoid such triggers is a recipe for limiting legitimate speech. Yet it seems obvious that the more comfortable we are with describing political opponents as fascists or “groomers,” as racists or Nazis, the more likely they are to provoke violent reactions.

Convince enough people that the very life of the country is at stake and a minority of them will believe it and act. It’s a problem for both sides of the aisle, and it will take both sides to stop it.

So, to all newly elected representatives heading to Hartford and Washington, DC, we ask this: Turn down the heat. Treat the other political party as opponents, not enemies. Find common ground if possible, and if not, try to keep the rhetoric civil.

Our country remains strong, and there is nothing wrong with having healthy, even heated political disagreements. But the quicker and looser we play with the tone of our disagreements, insisting that “winning” is the only outcome that matters, the more we threaten our own national stability.

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