How? Why? When did certain words and phrases become negative, fighting words invoking vitriolic attacks as a way to gain political points?
You know, those bell-ringing words that stir up partisan group chats and cause verbal arrows to be unleashed: "Woke"; "immigration," "women's rights," and "globalist."
Each attack using these words as battle cries result in retaliatory rhetoric from those who claim the words are positive; in the war on words, there is little middle ground.
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have as much in common as a virus and a vaccine. Trump rants that Biden is "crooked"; Biden called Trump "an existential threat to America." In these tumultuous times, compromise is a dirty word with politicians looking for partisan points, not working with the opposing party for what is best for the United States.
What we have today are members committed to a particular party or candidate and who are reluctant to look at alternatives for common problems with political opponents. Decades ago, being partisan was defined by voting behavior; today, it refers to psychological identification with a particular party.
Many have forgotten that Dwight Eisenhower was a nonpartisan independent until 1952 when he became a Republican candidate. Looking at his record, his nonpartisan bent was a reflection of who he was as a human being; his joining the GOP was in direct response to Harry Truman's campaign style. Eisenhower's reluctance to "build" his adopted party through one-up gamesmanship opened the door for Vice President Richard Nixon to sew the seeds of partisanship.
Eisenhower's belief in party principals working together for the good of the country enabled him to work with House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. Weekly meetings with the Democratic leader were extremely productive, as history reports.
The ugly side of partisanship started Jan. 20, 2009. Barack Obama, the nation's first Black president, was sworn in, and Republican leaders, led by Mitch McConnell, vowed to created legislative chaos in order to ensure he was a one-term president. While that ploy did not work out, Republicans did virtually shut down progressive agenda items for the last six years of the Obama administration.
Thus, the Era of Political Discontent and Ineffective Government began.
The 2016 presidential campaign brouhaha was the culmination of six years of raucous name-calling, back-biting, and verbal fisticuffs not seen in American politics in several generations.
By all historical references and common-sense guideposts, Hillary Clinton should have walked over Donald Trump to the White House. But her personal feelings of entitlement, lack of personal charisma and warmth of character, as well as running one of the worst presidential campaigns in history, set up the unlikely result of Trump winning a race no one thought he could win.
At its lowest common denominator, Trump's presidential run was based on two key points: Ego and his love for personal adulation, and building his personal "Trump" brand.
He was considered dead meat after the "grabbing" tape, but Hillary's lukewarm attacks on his personal behavior and Trump's P.T. Barnum approach to campaigning (including bringing some of Bill Clinton's legion of lovers to a televised debate) tickled the fancy of just enough voters to secure him the presidency.
His main priority was to eradicate Obamacare, but his efforts to kill the popular program actually enhanced its image. Trump's four years were a continuation of partisan politics as he pushed hot-button issues to the forefront. Trump's tax cuts ensured an historic rise in the deficit, and the partisan issue of how to handle covid-19 further divided the country.
The Trump era was the pinnacle of partisan politics run amok.
Now, about those divisive words!
Immigration: Everybody has an opinion on immigrants, and feelings run the gamut from welcoming newcomers with "open arms" to greeting them with "open firearms." Forgetting for the moment that every last one of us came from immigrant stock, it is apparent that an overhaul to the admission policies is long overdue and warranted. The problem is money.
Women's rights: This is basically an issue of personal choice versus anti-abortion sentiments. This divisive problem would be easily fixed if every person without female special parts would be excluded from the discussion and creation of solutions. Turn the equation around and tell men what they can and cannot do with their reproductive system. See how far that argument gets in the legislative system.
Globalist: Like it or not, we live in a globalist society, with world economies depending on what various countries provide, withhold and charge for products and services. It is a reality. Get with the program; it's not going to change.
Woke: How did such a nice, beautiful word get turned into a mean-spirited, political cuss word and zinger putdown? "Woke" originally only referred to being "alert to racial prejudice and discrimination." It has been expanded to include sexism and LBGTQ rights.
What is wrong with that? Jesus was "woke"; in fact, he was the premier "wokester."
May we all embrace wokesterism as a way of looking at other people, of giving every person a chance to be whomever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without harming others.
You know you want that for yourself. Extend the courtesy to others.
George S. Smith of Sutton is a former longtime Arkansas editor and publisher.