Us vs. Them
Emotion is the death of reason
I would say my biggest political crusade is to erode the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. This means I can’t turn a blind eye to members of my own party who subscribe to such a mentality. Bill Kintner is one such example.
Kintner was caught in a cybersex scandal last year, for which he endured no repercussions (other than a fine for using a state computer for such action). He’s made many insensitive and ignorant comments on the legislature floor and to the press. He retweeted a picture mocking women marchers for being too unattractive to be sexually assaulted, an action which ultimately resulted in his resignation.
But, none of these are even the most important reason why Bill Kintner was a detriment to the legislature. Kintner’s downfall was his inability to consider those who had differing beliefs as his equals and to deal with them as such.
He personified the "us vs. them" mentality.
I admired his stated reasons for entering the legislature. I even liked some of his ideas. But it was difficult to focus on his policy goals when his language contained such disdain for his fellow Nebraskan who happened to have a different perspective on the world. It frustrated me when, in the middle of a policy debate on the floor, Kintner would speak up and begin his routine criticism of the liberal ideology and Democrats in general.
When I interned at the Capitol Building, it disgusted me to hear him enter our office and rail on “those freaking liberals,” insisting inspiring conservative youth was the only way to move forward. Jeez man, have some humanity, I thought. These are people you’re talking about.
Essentially, the problem with Kintner is that he wasn’t interested in solutions to problems, only conservative solutions to problems. This mentality that so many fall victim to serves as a blinder. Coupled with confirmation bias it can become horribly corrosive to the problem-solving abilities of a legislative body.
So, of course, Kintner’s words were offensive, ignorant and unfeeling. But, as demonstrated by Ernie Chambers, words aren’t always as important as some think they are. After all, just last year Chambers compared police to ISIS and suggested he’d shoot a police officer if he had a weapon. Chambers also leveled the most pointed and, in my opinion, inappropriate personal attack I’ve ever heard by a public official against none other than Senator Bill Kintner, making fun of Kintner’s weight and lambasting his character.
My point is that, though his words upset many, still others didn’t care. Basically, like every other politician, some people liked him and some people disliked him. Therefore, his biggest flaw wasn’t his uncensored thoughts, but his obvious distaste for those with which he disagreed.
Kintner was unable to separate the political belief from the person, and as a Republican, I would rather have 10 open-minded and civil Democrats in public office than one unfeeling and obstinate Republican who is incapable of considering differing solutions.
Really, parties should only serve as a somewhat arbitrary way of organizing ourselves with like-minded individuals. They shouldn’t, however, serve as armies in which to enlist to fight a war of ideas.
Only once those like Bill Kintner, and those who purvey his divisive ideology, fade away from the public sphere can we, as Americans, realize the full potential we have when we realize we’re all on the same side.
Jonathan Deemer is a sophomore studying biomedical science.