A University of Louisville panel on political discourse says today’s political divisiveness is not unprecedented.
Congressman John Yarmuth, outgoing Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson and political science professor Jasmine Farrier sat on the panel. Farrier said many people seem to have historical amnesia when decrying the intense and sometimes violent rhetoric in Congress and in the media.
“I don’t know why we don’t acknowledge that we have had political violence in this country,” she said. “We have had terrible divisions. The New Deal was called Socialist and Fascist when those words meant something. And yet we think back that that was a wonderful consensus moment. It wasn’t.”
Yarmuth agreed with Farrier, but said the increase in the number of media outlets and in the public’s access to media has exacerbated any problems. The panel was organized after the shooting rampage in Arizona that left six dead and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords seriously injured. Yarmuth said it’s too early to say exactly what motivated the alleged shooter, but three topics immediately surfaced and should be discussed.
“One was guns, one was mental health…and the possibility that something triggered in Jared Loughner the idea of going to shoot a government official. And we ought to debate all of those and the intersection of the three,” he said.
In her closing remarks, Farrier suggested the audience change the tone of the media by boycotting controversial hosts. Grayson added that news consumers should expand their horizons.
“Go to the other side, if you will, and read arguments in favor of a policy you think right now you don’t agree with or against a policy you agree with. There are plenty of great sites out there,” he said.
The full forum: