In 2012, a Marist poll found that a stunning 78 percent of Americans felt frustration over the increasing negativity of our politics. It is safe to assume this percentage has not dropped since then. This frustration comes from the sense that we are victims of the politics and punditry of the times.
In truth, demand is far more important than supply: We get more of what we signal we want through our dollars, clicks and votes. If our politics are too often poisonous, it is because, as a society, we are demanding too much poison. If we want to grow in virtue, and experience a healthier, more productive political environment, each of us must demand more virtue.
We should ask ourselves: What will my next click say about my desires? Will the next article about politics I read elevate me? Or will it be a pathogen that provides momentary satisfaction from an eloquent insult to my enemies, but ultimately fuels personal bitterness and increases the climate of acrimony in America? Can I pass it by instead and seek personal moral improvement?
Most Americans rightly complain that our political culture attacks too much and edifies too little. But what do we really demand of the politicians we support? Humility, optimism and flexibility? Or do we excuse our own side for its ideological rigidity, preening self-regard and blame-shifting?