Kurt Griffith on the Case Against Vilification

Five years ago, Kurt Griffith moved from New York City to Berkeley Springs to escape New York’s skyrocketing property tax rates.

“As a result of the Bush tax cuts, the federal government started paying for fewer things that towns and counties must now provide,” Griffith told Russell Mokhiber, host of This Week in Morgan County. “Thus local governments had to raise property taxes.”

He moved from a blue state to a red state. But he is irritated by the vilification on both sides.

Griffith’s coping mechanism in a supercharged political environment?

“I try to be polite and even handed. Don’t be a jerk. So much of our political dialogue is devoted to people being jerks to each other.”

How deep is the vilification?

“Person to person, not particularly,” Griffith says. “Group versus group, tremendously.”

“When we abstract the others side as an anonymous them, we can tell all kinds of horrible things about the other side. We call them wingnuts. We call them libtards.”

“When we work person to person, I don’t care how you voted. Are you a decent guy?”

“When you have people who are in distress, people who don’t see a future, people who feel abandoned or left behind, that is fertile ground to plant every kind of hate that you can imagine.”

“I don’t believe the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee particularly care much about racism. But they happily use those issues to manipulate the public.”

“I don’t respect either the Democratic or the Republican national parties. Both parties use very decisive social issues to manipulate the electorate, but they vote and pass laws supporting neoliberal and neoconservative policies that can be barely differentiated.”

Griffith said that he abandoned the Democratic Party when he moved to West Virginia. He is registered as an independent.

(According to the most recent report from the West Virginia Secretary of State (March 2019), of the 13,588 registered voters in Morgan County, 21 percent are registered Democratic, 44 percent Republican, 31 percent No Party or Independent and 4 percent other.)

“If the Democratic Party stood up for democratic principles, I might still be a Democrat.”

How do we get out of the cycle of vilification?

“When was the last time you convinced anybody of anything by screaming at them and calling them nasty names?” he asks.

Griffith says that you have to realize that “even Trump voters, and there are a lot of them here, are not particularly attracted to Trump himself — they are more disenchanted with the establishment.”

“People are discovering that screaming and shouting is not helping. It’s only making things worse.”

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