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Will Wood commentary: A polarization that goes beyond opinion to plain facts

Now that election season is over, I suppose it’s time for election season to begin. In fact, it seems very much like next year’s election season somehow started long before last week’s election season ended. It’s as irritating as Halloween candy season starting before back-to-school season is over.

(Before I go any farther, a friend asked me to write a piece asking candidates to collect their campaign signs. I could not figure out how to stretch that into a whole column, but all voters agree: Candidates, please pick up your signs! If actions speak louder than words, then cleaning up after yourself — or failing to — is a much stronger demonstration of your character than all the things you said during the campaign.)

What concerns me most about next year is the ever growing disconnect between the left and the right. There have always been differences between the parties, but politicians understood that crafting policy required some level of compromise. That was how the Declaration was written. That was how the Constitution was written. Within my lifetime (which, okay, my kids tell me is a very long time) Republicans and Democrats would find the places where they agree, haggle over the places where they did not, and get a little bit of what each side wanted.

But those kinds of differences are not what I am talking about.

I am talking about how Republicans overwhelmingly supported Ronald Reagan’s Cold War approach, and how they overwhelmingly supported the first President Bush when he took us to war to end the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

But many of today’s Republicans view the invasion of Ukraine by an ex-KGB autocrat as not our problem, and the party’s de facto spokesperson — former President Donald Trump — called Putin a “genius” and “savvy” after the invasion.

Even if you think countries should be allowed to seize other countries by force, even if you believe that defending a NATO-adjacent democracy from a military invasion by a country Republicans have long considered adversarial is unimportant, we are 20 months into Putin’s “savvy” war. Objectively, Putin is not a genius and he does not deserve our admiration.

On Israel: I have honestly never been a big fan of Joe Biden. I would have voted differently if we had had a real primary in 2020. But Biden’s decision to go to Israel to hug Netanyahu and shed tears with him while also delivering a message counseling restraint was one of the most brilliantly nuanced pieces of statesmanship the U.S. has produced in decades.

Trump, on the other hand, took the opportunity to call Hezbollah “smart” for attacking Israel while Hamas was on the offensive.

Objectively, we must condemn terrorism in all its forms, not call it smart.

Then there’s the economy. I could not have counted the number of times during the first three years of Trump’s presidency a Republican friend said to me, “For all his faults, Trump has been great for the economy.” (Interesting how they all open by acknowledging Trump’s many faults.)

Trump oversaw 36 months of the longest economic expansion in U.S. History. The last 36 months. Obama oversaw the first 92 months. Trump inherited a rocket-hot economy. Some facts: unemployment fell at a slower rate under Trump; the year after Trump signed the wildly unpopular “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” was the first calendar year that Wall Street ended lower than it started since the global financial crisis; and, Trump’s first two budgets (the pre-pandemic ones) included deficits that were on average 42% higher than Obama’s last four budgets.

After the pandemic, Biden signed three massive (and popular) bills to get our economy moving again. They came with wild inflation, but they also reduced unemployment to pre-pandemic levels in months, not years. Since then, inflation has returned to near pre-pandemic levels again while unemployment has remained low. We are once again in an economic expansion.

Here’s another fact: of the last 10 U.S. recessions, only one started during a Democrat’s term in the White House.

Yet somehow Republican voters (and even some voters on the left) believe that Republicans are better stewards of our economy.

Objectively, there is no reason to believe that.

And that is the disconnect that puzzles me. These are facts, not opinions. How can we hope to find a common ground with each other when we cannot even agree on facts?

Will Wood is a small business owner, veteran, and half-decent runner. He lives, works, and writes in West Chester.

Source: Berkshire mont

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