The Increase of Gotcha Politics

There is always going to be a degree of gotcha politics: President George H.W. Bush’s “read my lips, no new taxes” to President Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it”. All politicians, in spite of the efforts to create Democrat, Republican, and even Libertarian demigods, are human. They are going to say things that will make you raise an eyebrow at a comment.

Republicans have been having a field day with State Representative Dar’shun Kendrick when she tweeted about President Donald Trump’s comment about 545 immigrant children not being reunited with their parents:

Others on Twitter were confused by the President’s “cartels and coyotes” comment during the debate thinking that coyotes referred the animal instead of the slang term used for human traffickers. Rep. Kendrick has been taking the flack in stride, but I think the back and forth highlights the problem with political discourse.

I think there’s justification for questioning comments from elected officials that are goofy (like bringing UV light inside the body) or just plain untrue (“if you like your plan, you can keep it“), but it seems to quickly turn mean-spirited. If the elected official is on your team, then obviously the opponents misheard and are dumb. If the elected official isn’t on your team, then they are obviously dumb and so are their supporters.

I don’t see how this continued distrust is sustainable. It’s hard to compromise on policy with neither side willing to trust the other. This could mean continued gridlock when one party controls Congress and the other controls the Senate, or it could mean that you see a policy pushes similar to that of the Affordable Care Act or a rush to remake the judiciary in the image of a single party’s image while they control government.

Die-hard partisans on the left and right will take this as a warning that they *must* win at all costs because every election is “the most important election of our lifetime.” If we keep acting like every election is an emergency, then we will continue to perpetuate petty politics.


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