The other night at a dinner party, an acquaintance (a strong Democrat and no fan of President Donald Trump,) and I (obviously a Republican) became involved in an earnest political discussion.
Our hostess, fearing some confrontation, strongly interrupted our discussion with “Please, no political talk at the table!!” The two of us debaters agreed to change the subject, but both felt a moment of regret.
This incident reminded me of an unfortunate trend in our current life, and particularly in our election season, that political discourse is becoming more partisan, heated and downright uncomfortable than in past years. Of course, the issues are serious, but maintaining civil debate and open and friendly discussion is equally serious and very important in our democracy.
I have spent my life in political debate and some time in elected office. Democrat Jack O’Connell beat me in 1982 for the Assembly office. Then he served as a Democratic senator when I became a Republican Assembly member in 1994. We never had a cross word between us, and although differing on many issues, we also worked together on some issues for our common constituencies.
One of my most important legislative bills was jointly authored by a Democratic senator, Dede Alpert. (Unfortunately, it did not pass).
I am concerned that this across-the-aisle cooperation has diminished in recent years.
Altogether, my time in and out of elected office has brought many debates and arguments, but very few uncomfortably heated moments. But I am hearing too much heat recently.
I hope our modern era has not brought too much confrontation and lack of understanding to our debates and differences. We must all do our part to keep smiling and tone down the confrontational rhetoric, and particularly in this election season.
We all share the blessings of democracy and the freedoms of speech in our amazingly generous and creative country — never perfect but with a developing history and growth to be proud of.
This is a plea from an old, retired politician to maintain civility and open, positive debate, even in the election season, and regardless of other voters’ decisions —and even if their majority votes prevail next month.
Santa Ynez Valley