But somewhere during the 1980's (?) things began to change. We became less tolerant of anyone who disagreed with whatever we believed. We became intensely polarized. Today liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, have built a no-man's-land mine field between themselves. Some of you who may be more politically knowledgeable than me might disagree, but as I recall it the one person who most personified this winner-take-all, take-no-prisoners brand of partisan politics was Rep Tom DeLay of Texas.
DeLay was the Republican House Whip. He was the guy who "whipped" all his party members into voting exactly as the party leadership said, or else. You crossed him at your own risk.
Our national leaders after WWII understood it was in our best interest to NOT totally humiliate our recently vanquished enemies. We allowed the Emperor of Japan to maintain his title, and helped the Europeans rebuild via the Marshall Plan. Unfortunately Tom DeLay missed history class the day that was discussed. By the time he made it to a leadership position in Congress he had earned a reputation as the meanest SOB in town. He was never interested in negotiating with the Democrats, but only in stomping them. He wanted to steamroll them, kick 'em in the teeth, scalp them, and finally disembowel them and spit on their carcass.
Each party dug in their heels. The hard-core "base" of each side refused to believe that their guys could ever do anything wrong, and that the other side could ever do anything right. For 8 years Republicans were constantly at Bill Clinton's throat, and Democrats returned the favor by constantly sniping at Dubya Bush for his 8 years in office. Each thought they had been wronged, and it was 100% the other parties fault. They themselves were always right, regardless of the facts. (Truth was there was plenty of blame to go around.)
We moved from the gutter into the sewer when Barack Obama was elected President. The Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, openly admitted it was his goal in life to see to it that Obama was a one-term President. Many even refused to believe Obama was American born. Anything the Democrats proposed, the Republicans automatically opposed, sight unseen. If any Republicans might have wanted to participate in the drafting of ObamaCare, their leadership took them aside and beat them senseless. "NO COLLABORATING WITH THE ENEMY!"
Now the tables are reversed. Republicans are proposing a replacement healthcare plan, and they wouldn't in a million years throw the Democrats a bone to get them to play ball. If they should be offered a seat at the table, I'm sure the Democratic leadership would put any party defector before a firing squad.
And here we are in 2017. Donald Trump is President, and his family and administration are under attack. The smoke and stench of something going on between Russia and his administration, if not the President personally, is pretty powerful. The Republican base refuses to even acknowledge anything smells, and the Democratic base is ready to start build gallows. As Republicans and their media stooges (FOX News) see it, the crime is not that they did it, but that they got caught because someone leaked it to the other side's media stooges. "HOW DARE THEY CATCH US!"
IMO we've pretty much hit bottom. Today our choice is between the Party of Oil and the Party of Water....they will never mix. The best quote I've heard in months was this morning when a commentator on TV, a Republican, called Washington politicians "the lowest form of human life". Too harsh? I think not.
Oh, and Tom DeLay? He was indicted and convicted for money laundering in 2011 and sentenced to 3 years in prison. However, in 2013 his conviction was overturned by a highly partisan (surprise!) Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
I'm honestly not trying to be a Debbie Downer, but just a realist. Individually we're wonderful people, willing to work together to better our neighborhoods and communities and schools. But the minute we put on a red hat or a blue hat, we turn into animals. If civil discourse isn't actually yet dead, it's definitely on life support. Hurts to hear, doesn't it?