After this week’s election, the nation’s commander-in-chief upped the ante on political strife. President Donald Trump promised to blame Democrats for any failings of the next Congress. He again attacked journalists as enemies of the people for asking him tough questions.
Such divisive rhetoric is indefensible, regardless of who utters it.
Oregonians cannot solve our national problems. But we can do better; and, in doing so, we can set an example for the country.
As part of that, the Register-Guard strives to present a variety of viewpoints on this page every day. We subscribe to the beliefs that truth arises through the collision of ideas; that no one person, party or viewpoint holds all the answers; and that society benefits from listening to those with whom we disagree.
Besides, life is far more interesting when we hang around people of opposite politics — if we actually listen to what they say instead of trying to sway their opinions.
Deep friendships have been forged that way. Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Gordon Smith, a Republican. Conservative national commentator Cal Thomas and liberal presidential candidate Sen. George McGovern. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and Republican state Senate President Gene Derfler.
And in the current Legislature, the bipartisan Oregon Future Caucus, of which Eugene Democratic Rep. Julie Fahey is a co-chair. The other co-chairs are Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg; Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland; and Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford. The contrasts among their ideologies could hardly be more pronounced. However, they are committed to finding common legislative ground on such issues as affordable housing and college costs.
Yet there are people in America, and probably even in Lane County, who lack close friendships with folks of a different political persuasion. That isolation is sad. From coffee shops to city halls and colleges, the public discourse is enlivened, deepened and thus strengthened by including people of diverse views.
But it seems the local discourse sometimes copies the divisive tone of Trump, although from the opposite side. Regardless of where people are on the political spectrum, no one should be reviled for espousing a legitimate viewpoint, especially when it goes against the majority. Indeed, Americans’ constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech serves to protect the voice of the minority.
The role of the newspaper opinion page has long been to present a forum for those contrasting views. The Oregonian newspaper was widely attacked for publishing a column by longtime conservative writer Elizabeth Hovde in which she was sympathetic to Vancouver’s Joey Gibson. He founded the highly controversial Patriot Prayer organization and has been part of the Portland protests that escalated into violence.
Hovde’s column was published the day after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue. That was awful timing, although an unfortunate coincidence. The content of the column, for anyone who read all of it, was thoughtful. But some readers confused the column with being a reflection of the editorial staff’s — and thus the newspaper’s — viewpoint.
Any newspaper worth its salt, including the Register-Guard, publishes a wide range of opinions, including ones with which its leadership may disagree. On any given day, readers should find opinions that support their views and opinions that make their blood boil, instead of representing only one side. These opinions include editorials, which represent the collective view of the editorial board, not the staff or the newspaper ownership; cartoons; local essays; and national columns.
Of course, readers always get the last word through their letters to the editor.
The newspaper was the town square and the social media of revolutionary times. It remains so today.
The diverse and dissenting views on this page are a sign of a healthy democracy. Cherish them. Encourage them. Respect them.