To Matt Geiger, Editor, Mount Horeb Mail

July 30, 2020

Political polarization is the biggest threat facing our country right now. It's a bigger threat than the pandemic, racial division, or any forces outside our borders. Why? Because if we are divided as people, as a nation, we become that much more susceptible to every threat because we are unable to muster the political will to address our most acute problems. When you view your fellow countrymen and women who hold different political views than you as not only wrong, but as the enemy, or even immoral, then the political process becomes impossible.

The polarization tearing the fabric of the Republic didn't start with Donald Trump or Barack Obama. Disagreements about politics have always existed. That's a good and healthy thing in a democracy and is necessary for progress.

But we are well beyond disagreement. The growing consensus is that our nation is more divided than any time since the Civil War and that we are even in a "cold" Civil War right now. What's more, the November elections have the potential to turn a cold Civil War into a hot one, rife with violence and collapse of rule of law.

How? If the election is close many will not accept the results. In November 2019 Pew Research Center found that only about half of the population had confidence that the public would accept the results of the 2020 election as legitimate. The chaotic events of 2020 have likely weakened people's confidence even further.

Then just last week the President repeatedly refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News. This is unprecedented, but not surprising.

In times like this, it's easy to feel helpless and full of despair. Or you can dig your partisan trench deeper and harden yourself for the war ahead. But let's be clear; the outcome of the 2020 election is not going to change the destabilizing and dangerous consequences of polarization. It's still going to be there regardless of the outcome. As is the mainstream media's and social media's destructive business model that feeds off it: Outrage = Eyeballs= Advertising Revenue.

If depolarization is going to happen, it has to happen at the grassroots, in our communities, with you, and with me.

That's why Mount Horeb Community Forums is sponsoring a free, online Depolarizing Within Workshop with the national nonpartisan citizen's group Braver Angels on August 10th. This moderated workshop teaches how to depolarize yourself and those in your "tribe" when they go too far in their attacks on the other side. Too often, we stereotype, dismiss, or ridicule our fellow citizens who support the other political party, its leaders, and its policies. This is one of the biggest drivers of polarization. Participating in this workshop is one, small thing you can do to stem the tide and help preserve the Republic during a time of acute need.

For more information about the workshop visit mount-horeb-community-forums.webnode.com or email mounthorebforums@gmail.com

- Chris Hofmann, Town of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin