Over the next two weeks, Republicans and Democrats convene their conventions – the equivalent of the MLB All-Star Game for political junkies. While the conventions are often a spectacle of political theater, this year it feels like the drama that has taken center stage is overshadowing important policy issues.
This hasn’t happened in a vacuum. For years, America’s political debate has been sliding toward greater polarization and acrimony, leaving little space for the give-and-take that is vital to the public policy conversation and a healthy democratic process. Even where Democrats and Republicans can find common ground, as they do on issues like criminal justice reform, there seems to be little incentive for either party to compromise.
These diversions would be unhelpful in any election year. But there are serious issues facing Americans today, issues that require serious debate. Americans across the political spectrum are reeling from the shooting death of African-Americans Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the mass murder of police officers in Dallas. And terrorist massacres targeting a gay night club in Orlando and government workers in San Bernardino, CA have brought home the impact of hatred and the threat posed by violent Islamist groups like ISIS. Whatever one’s views about how to address this violence and the range of intertwined issues it raises, Americans deserve a probing and constructive national debate rather than a contest to see who can score the most political points.
In formal submissions to the Platform Committees of both parties, ADL has urged that Republicans and Democrats address a range of important issues in an urgent way. Internationally, the U.S. must continue to play a leadership role in the fight against terrorism; in ensuring that Israel remains strong and secure; in promoting peace and respect for human rights across the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe; and in speaking out against a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism. Domestically, our submission also addresses a variety of issues, for example asserting the urgent need for progress on voting rights, criminal justice reform, expanded legal protection for the LGBT community, refugee rights, and gun violence prevention.
ADL has had a longstanding practice of submitting its policy agenda to both parties, and has called on campaigns to reject character attacks and the use of bigotry in numerous campaign seasons. This year, ADL is hosting events at both conventions that focus on finding space for substantive debate and collaboration toward progress in order to get down to the serious business of addressing the nation’s problems.
Politicians and candidates will win or lose, come and go—but the fallout will linger unless we can elevate the quality of the debate moving forward. It is incumbent upon all of us to raise our voices, to reject the use of bigotry or character attacks by any candidate, and to promote a public debate based on facts, evidence and civil discourse.