Just as “clean neighborhoods” and “law and order” were code words for keeping communities segregated in the 1960s (and later), today’s polarizing political language is having a sinister effect and must be challenged.
Code words used in the most recent political debates imply that some un-American element has taken over the levers of government. Under this narrative, President Barack Obama is a “foreigner,” and his presidency is “illegitimate.” He’s a “Muslim” who is “shredding the Constitution and States’ rights” and “conspiring” with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to turn this nation into a “socialist” or “communist” state.
None of these hyperbolic allegations have any merit of course.
The Democratic agenda to revive the economy through the Recovery Act which saved or created three million jobs, to reform Wall Street after run-away greed nearly caused the collapse of our financial system, to reform our healthcare system to expand coverage to most Americans and control runaway costs, to expand the student loan program so more people can afford to go to college, and to provide assistance for the unemployed were all actions taken to strengthen the country yet are regularly disparaged with incendiary language as somehow being “un-American.”
This kind of talk – even in the heat of election season – is counterproductive. It serves to divide us and distract us from the real issues we all confront and should be working together to address. Our nation is a patchwork of ethnicities, religions and cultures; America’s strength and appeal is in our ability to embrace ideological, religious, and ethnic differences and draw upon common values to build a better future.
In less than a week, people throughout the country will go to the polls. It is my hope that when the dust settles, America’s better angels will persevere and the people will have elected representatives with the courage and moral compass to push back against the hateful, loaded language and polarizing politics that has dominated civil discourse in recent months. Only time will tell.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.