Nasty trend in our politics not good for state, country

The deep divisions and hostility that are roiling our political system were on painful display outside the Garde Arts Center in New London the evening of the Sept. 12 gubernatorial debate inside. Those on differing sides of this political divide were getting in each other’s faces, and things turned uglier when pushing and shoving ensued. It got perilously close to fisticuffs.

More aggression was exhibited again Monday when the second debate took place at the Shubert Theater in New Haven.

Demonstrations in support of respective candidates have long been a part of the spectacle that surrounds the debates for major offices that have taken place at the Garde. And that’s fine. It’s part of our political tradition.

But with each succeeding election cycle the animosity is ratcheting up.

Granted, the stakes are high, and personal.

The union members who rallied in favor of Democratic candidate Ned Lamont feel they are under siege, their livelihoods and ability to organize threatened. Recent Supreme Court rulings have undermined the ability to collect dues from the unwilling within the worker ranks. State workers say they are unfairly blamed for all the state’s fiscal problems, the concessions they have made ignored.

Conversely, supporters of Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski see the state government as a sort of robber baron, using a tax system to transfer their hard-earned dollars to a government class that often enjoys benefits and retirement security superior to their own.

These starkly diametrical views of political reality are reinforced by an echo chamber of social media and cable news. The left and right retreat to their respective mountains, seeking out sources of information that confirm, but seldom challenge, the views they hold.

So by the time they got on those streets of New London they could not believe how intolerant, uninformed and unreasonable were those standing on the other side of the divide.

The center is not holding. But when it is time to govern, whoever becomes governor will likely encounter a divided legislature. The Senate is now split 18-18, while Democrats have a narrow control in the House. Compromise will almost certainly be necessary.

In a democracy, politics cannot be a winner-take-all game. It is a point being lost on too many. Argue your position, support your candidate, but don’t lose sight that those with differing views are not enemies but fellow Americans. Escalating hostility will not lead our state, or nation, to a good end.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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