Hanauer is director of the One America Movement, a nonprofit founded by faith and community leaders to address growing divisions in American society.
There is a false notion in our national conversation right now that you have to choose between mushy calls for civility and standing up for "truth and justice." This misunderstands the nature of polarization, and it misunderstands the multi-faceted fight for actual truth and justice.
Julie Kohler of the Democracy Alliance recently made a series of standard arguments against what she calls "love politics." Kohler argued that focusing on the tone of our politics leaves us papering over the real injustices that have taken place in our history and are still taking place today. This can be true. She argued that the unmerited anger of the oppressor is not equivalent to the righteous anger of the oppressed. Absolutely true. And she argued that being nice to our opponents will not prevent the significant wrongs being perpetrated in our country by some of the people who wield power. This is unquestionably true.
Kohler is right to challenge political narratives rooted in love to be about more than sentimental politeness. If we're going to bring our country together, we need to do more than promote civility — we need to understand polarization for what it really is.
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