Ramifications of toxic political climate

HOUSTON – The lack of civility in politics is an “unsettling trend,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said. And it affects much more than just politics.

“Various social norms and institutions are effectively breaking down,” Jones said.

Many Democrats argue President Trump’s rhetoric and policies are the real problem. For many Republicans, the last several days prove Democrats are to blame.

The Homeland Security secretary was shouted at and pressured into leaving a restaurant. The president’s press secretary was asked to leave a restaurant. Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters urged Democrats to go further.

“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant in a department store at a gasoline station, get out and you create a crowd,” Waters said to supporters. “And you push back on them. Tell them they’re not welcome here.”

On Twitter, President Trump responded by calling Waters a “low IQ person” and warned, “Be careful what you wish for!”

Waters later said the president “is the one that is responsible for promoting violence,” and listed examples.

It is a blame game nobody will win, and in which everybody is affected, Jones said.

“It just shows the heightened polarization that exists within our political system, that’s seeping out into broader society,” Jones said.

“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents,” Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor, responding to Waters call to action. “That’s not right. That’s not American.”

In April, the Houston area witnessed an example of this political polarization in everyday life.

Harris County Constable’s Precinct 1 Office charged a West University councilwoman with disorderly conduct after she yelled at a teenage girl wearing a Trump T-shirt.

The charge was eventually dropped and the councilwoman apologized. But she also received death threats.

“Democrats and Republicans rarely even speak and even members of the same party are often at odds on key political issues but also on personal matters,” Jones said.

All of this suggests especially negative 2018 midterm election campaigns as politicians on both sides attempt to turn anger and angst into votes.

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