Abraham Lincoln said, “Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” It’s solid advice from a wise man, something many of us would teach and expect of our children. Yet we expect it neither from the people running our country, nor of ourselves when it comes to our party affiliations.
It would be easy to say this began with Donald Trump, but it’s not true. Nearly everyone registered as a Republican or Democrat can probably point to a candidate they voted for solely because of their party affiliation. After all, our political party registration has become part of our identities, really just a label of shared values. The person from my party might be a creep, but they have to be better than the one from the Other Party, which wants to bring about America’s downfall.
So every 2-4 years, primary voters put forth more extreme, less credible candidates. Where once sanity would have prevailed in the general election, ensuring radicals’ defeat, now they cruise to victory. Partisan voters stand with candidates and parties that have “gone wrong”, and America’s divide grows each time.
Another great Republican President, Ronald Reagan, said he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him, and according to registration changes, many recent ex-Democrats can sympathize. Similarly, many Republicans have left their party in the past several years, breaking the Gipper’s 11th Commandment, because they no longer recognize it.
Center Street’s mission is to combat extremism by winning elections. We’re a legitimately non-partisan organization, with Republicans, Democrats and independents on the team. We’ve supported Republican, Democratic and independent candidates during this cycle. But we’re constantly accused of being Democrat-aligned or liberal because we’ve spoken out against far-right extremist candidates, like J.D. Vance or Blake Masters.
Masters doesn’t even want legal immigration and his policy proposals have attracted endorsements from avowed white supremacists and even a neo-Nazi. Vance has shown he’ll morph into whomever he needs to be to sell a book, promote a company or even get elected to the Senate. Vance and Masters are despicable. In another era, most people would agree.
But in 2022 America, Lincoln’s words are foreign, and “If you ain’t with us, you’re against us” is the guiding principle.
I started to write this post prior to the news that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was violently attacked with a hammer. The assailant, who has been identified as a right-wing extremist, had allegedly called over and over for “Nancy.”
Once upon a time, we might have made it a full day before people let their partisan tendencies win out, publicly anyway. But now… A human being was beaten with a hammer, with injuries requiring brain surgery, and some right-wing blue checks immediately either a) suggested it’s a conspiracy or b) encouraged restraint from compassion.
Lack of humanity isn’t an affliction of the far right alone. We’ve seen similar grotesque cruelty and antipathy from the far left after Rep. Steve Scalise was shot and Sen. Rand Paul was attacked. One of those tweets even came from the Pelosis’ daughter, Christine.
How far we’ve strayed from the path!
The political parties and ideologies these people claim as their own each claim to be more humane, compassionate or better for the country than the other. If you mentioned that to any of them, they would likely answer that their political opponents aren’t human, or some other version of dehumanization that justifies treating them with total contempt.
We’ve allowed them to do this. In the process, they’ve convinced hundreds of millions of Americans that their cause is so just and their battle so critical for good to triumph over evil, nothing is beyond the pale. “After all, technically Hitler was a human being. Would you have cared if Hitler were shot by the resistance or beaten with a hammer? And if the Republicans are Nazis and Democrats are Communists…”
Extremism thrives when left unchecked. It shouldn’t surprise us that electing the ”lesser of two evils” over and over hasn’t left us in a good place. It’s left us vulnerable, even as extremists pull us further apart and convince us the “other side” is our enemy. It must stop. We know how this goes. Violent rhetoric begets physical violence. Now is the moment to say enough, to part with those who go wrong and to stand with those who stand right.