The gap between us is widening

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to share my opinions on political issues in the Charlotte Observer and over the airwaves of WBT 1110-AM. My Republican friends (and often conservatives I meet) comment on my radio appearances but rarely mention my written pieces. I find this concerning. It begs to question, why?

I believe it is because we have become so politically divided that our sources of information have become tribal. Talk radio is viewed as conservative, while traditional print media is associated with more liberal audiences. In fact, I would argue news is now judged trustworthy based on the perceived political leanings of the source. As a friend told me, he is confident the news on MSNBC is always wrong.

As a conservative, I often disagree with Observer editorials and endorsements (both in tone and choice). However, since Donald Trump was elected president it feels as though the extent of my disagreement has grown exponentially more personal and emotional. Have the constant calls from the left that Republicans are racists, Nazis, bigots, hate-mongers, etc. so entered my psyche that I remember only editorials that reinforce my thought that the Observer is left leaning? Do I overlook when the Editorial Board is critical of the Board of County Commissioners and School Board, both of which are dominated by Democrats?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the Observer Editorial Board is conservative. I simply question that in a hyper-political environment, is it possible I have succumbed to selective outrage? Is this what causes many Republicans not to read the paper and instead tune into the radio? After all, my message is the same for both formats.

The gap between the two major political parties has never felt wider. Politics have crept into all aspects of our lives. It impacts relationships at work and disrupts friendships. Sunday morning sermons anger half of the congregation. We need to have serious policy/social discussions in our country, but the political climate has made it virtually impossible. Many people feel comfortable talking only to those who are like-minded. If this doesn’t change soon, our country is in trouble. How can we tackle the important issues of the day if we cannot have conversations with one another?

Part of the issue is social media. It is easy to be critical or make fun of a stranger you will never encounter in person, but it is much different to argue with your neighbor or colleague. I have many friends who disagree with me on political issues, but we don’t dissolve into name calling. Perhaps if people resisted the urge to immediately judge and denigrate those with different political beliefs we would be able to figure out how to solve the immigration crisis or reduce the cost of college.

My desire for conservative policies is not going to diminish, and I will continue to work towards electing conservative candidates. I support a border wall, the 2nd Amendment, private healthcare, reduced regulation and as little government needed to provide necessary services. I am pro-life. Many of you reading this do not share these beliefs. If you stop calling me a white supremacist and I stop calling you a socialist, perhaps we can move beyond name-calling and disagree without being disagreeable? Let’s get back to the days of substantive conversations. The future of our country may depend on it.

Kenny Smith, a former Charlotte City Council member, is a contributing columnist to the Editorial Board.