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How did political polarization take over American life?

We must do our best to carve out a wide swath of societal space free from politics. 

Associated Press

One of the most depressing aspects of 21st-century life in America is the absolute politicization of everything.

A few weeks ago, my polling showed that voters were evenly divided as to whether Major League Baseball would resume. One look at the demographic breakdowns made clear that this had nothing to do with baseball. It wasn’t a case of baseball fans being excited for the season to finally start and others not caring one way or the other. Instead, the responses revealed the same societal divides as on everything else related to the pandemic: Republicans were supportive of reopening and Democrats were opposed. The age, racial, and other breakdowns also followed the familiar pattern of pandemic responses.

In other words, people’s response to a question about baseball was overwhelmed by the talking points of their favorite political team. Sad doesn’t begin to describe it.

For our communities and our country to work as they should, we need large swaths of daily life protected from the pollution of our dysfunctional political dialogue. We need societal space to build friendships and working relationships with people of varied political views. Ideally, we wouldn’t even know their political views until real bonds between us have been formed.

But even writing those words makes me sigh. It’s just not happening.

Last Monday, my wife and I moved out of Manhattan to take up residence in Florida. It was not a political move or statement. It was something we had been considering for a while.

But, outside our circle of close friends, countless people greeted our decision in political terms. A few weeks before leaving, we were dining (outdoors) at a neighborhood restaurant and a woman at the next table heard us talking. She launched into a tirade and warned us not to go until Florida got a new governor. Not only that, she described Florida’s governor in very colorful terms.

Others were less graphic in their description but conveyed the same tone. Part of it was due to deep-seated fear of COVID-19, but most of the comments had political overtones.

There aren’t many people on the other side of the political aisle in Manhattan, so we didn’t hear many opposing views around town. But in my interactions with people around the country, many offered congratulations on our “escape” or “liberation” from Mayor de Blasio’s world.

Again, it saddens me that a personal decision was regarded by so many as a political statement. And it was especially irksome that people who barely knew us felt the desire to express their opinion about the politics of our (nonpolitical) decision.

Why did we leave? As with any major life decision, many factors were involved. My wife and I had been considering the move before we ever heard of the coronavirus. We knew it would be hard to leave the greatest city in the world, but we also knew it was just a question of when that would happen.

Then, the pandemic and the lockdowns hit. Before we knew it, the New York City we loved was gone. Jazz clubs, Broadway shows, restaurants and countless other attractions simply disappeared. So did the people who made them possible. As time went on, it became clear that the city is not coming back any time soon. The pandemic won.

For us, that meant it was time to move

As we settle into our new home, we will actively engage in our community and build new friendships. We will also find ways to celebrate the many freedoms and blessings we enjoy as Americans. And, as we do so, we will do our best to carve out a wide swath of societal space free from politics.

Scott Rasmussen is an American political analyst and digital media entrepreneur. He is the author of “The Sun is Still Rising: Politics Has Failed But America Will Not.”