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EDITORIAL: Democracy is about debate, not brick-throwing

The loyal opposition is an endangered species. Death threats and epithets leveled at members of Congress who support health care reform are a sign that too many people now see those with opposing views as an enemy to be destroyed.

Tolerance for honest disagreement is an essential element of democracy. So is acknowledging the will of the majority in Congress. Lose those things, and the nation will be ungovernable.

Health care reform is an emotional issue. It's personal. And it has revealed deep, philosophical differences over the proper role of government. But that divide isn't new. Nor is the existence of an uncompromising, radical fringe, like some elements within the Tea Party movement. But dissent has crossed an important line when windows in congressional offices are broken and threats against members of Congress and their families make heightened security necessary.

Especially troubling is the extent poison from the fringe has seeped into the mainstream. The public is polarized, in part, because media in the digital age is polarized. It's splintered in ways that allow people to retreat into ideological echo chambers given to demonizing fear-mongering.

Passion in politics isn't a bad thing. But there's controversial work to be done, like retooling immigration and Social Security. It will be tough enough without allowing positions once considered merely right or wrong to be recast as good versus evil. hN


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