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Serving: United States

Country before party: Is it even possible?

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Let’s get back to healthy political debate without the name calling and extremism.

Is it safe now to talk about politics without worrying it’ll cause a riot?

Just a few months ago that question was no laughing matter, and I’m not even sure it is okay to bring up now.

Shortly after the inauguration I innocently suggested on Facebook that it was time for healing – and promptly got my head bitten off by ‘friends’ still angry over the election. Weird acrimonious accusations from folks whom the previous week I had hit ‘like’ on their kid’s basketball photos. People who immediately read ‘democrat’ into my healing comment (registered Republican here).

So, I stopped talking about politics. And that’s difficult since politics is tied to business, and you are running a business if you are reading this column.

I’m no political analyst, but if the election last November and the ensuing Capitol Riot taught me anything it’s that we must all start putting country ahead of party. We must seek out what unites us and begin shouting down those who would divide us (including hard left and right news outlets).

The last four years many of us had to figure out if we could vote Trump and still look ourselves in the mirror. Many of us had to consider our Christian values against supporting a pro-business leader who also compulsively lies, divides, and uses fear tactics to win at all costs.

Could we still vote Trump? Many of you said ‘yes,’ as our surveys showed big support, over and over.

I get it. I was in that camp too – until the election he refused to concede, gaslighting, and subsequent Capitol Riot.

That was when the GOP and I went our separate ways. The party’s ‘internal civil war’ continues even now. Seeing some republican political leaders encourage citizens to avoid a Covid vaccination - a death wish for their own voting bloc, mind you – just boggles the mind.

I still maintain Reagan republican values of fiscal conservative measures and smaller government, and maybe someday the GOP and my values will meet again once the party’s civil war is settled.

The farm vote

This spring I got out to talk to farmers, mainly just to catch up on grain markets or planting progress. But more than one told me without any prompting that they were staunch conservatives who were repulsed by the former president’s inability to concede defeat and the riot that followed his speech Jan. 6.

“It shakes you to the core,” says Chris Mann, who farms with his dad Fred and brothers Joe and Rob near Cloverdale, Ind. “A guy who couldn’t admit he lost. I liked a lot of things he did, but I couldn’t go along with that.”

I’m sure you have an opinion on this and I’m happy to hear it if you promise to make your comments respectful. If you simply write me off as “spreading the liberal agenda,” well, you too have fallen into the politically poisoned vat, and I hope you can find your way out. I may be naïve, but my goal is to start a discourse about how we can make the country more united going forward. And it starts with really listening to each other.

Isn’t that what we all want?

President Trump was and continues to be popular in Rural America. We have covered his every move that impacted agriculture these past four years. His deregulation policies helped turn the economy lose. What we wanted from top leaders is more business and less politics. But instead of getting less politics in the Trump years, everything became political (and yes, it takes two parties to let this happen).

What we’re left with now is this continued political divide – divided and broken.

“Either people love Trump and hate Biden or hate Trump and love Biden,” says Rusty Schultz, a Michigantown, Ind., farmer. “There’s no middle ground anymore – there’s no truth.

“We all get too much into calling each other names,” he adds. “Kids get on the computer and are super badasses, but they don’t have to look a person in the eye and realize how you communicate with somebody and work something out.”

These past few years our kids saw their country’s leaders acting like jerks. Most of us grow up knowing right from wrong and gently ignoring the wingnuts -until one day you realize some of them are now running the show. To be clear by wingnuts I mean extremists on both sides of the aisle.

Most American voters are not extremists. They are not single-issue voters. But you’d be hard pressed these days to find anyone thoughtfully hanging around in the center of our political stage.

Bring back healthy debate

The larger point I’m learning from talking with farmers – of both political parties – is that they want to be able to debate and disagree on an issue without escalating to name calling and extremism. Seems simple, but it’s not. At least, not now. If you like a few of Biden’s ideas, you’re a socialist; If you want to continue having the right to own a gun, you’re a hot headed MAGA lover.

I remember the frustration when people disagreed with President Obama’s policies and were immediately labeled racist. That polarization has been magnified 100x now.

C’mon! Maybe wearing a mask so long has caused us to forget how to be logical. There are only two sides of a mask; voters are multidimensional.

“With every issue now there is no in-between – either go over here or over there. It’s frustrating,” says Schultz.

Folks, let’s re-learn how to discuss big issues without charging directly into extreme points of view.

I want my country back. I want that country where two sides get together, hammer out a compromise, and we all live with it. And move on. We don’t stew over a loss and try to figure out how to get political revenge.

How do you think we can talk politics again, without biting each other’s heads off?

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