Opinion: Political arguments must avoid hateful ad hominem attacks

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Protestors outside the Broward County of Supervisor of Elections Office as the statewide election recount is underway on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald via AP)

In such a polarized political climate, attacks made on election candidates tend to promote hate and discrimination rather than criticize political views. Criticizing one another is not wrong, but there should be a line drawn between criticism and attacks. Elections are known to be a time of tension between the left and the right, especially during this presidential administration, and it is inevitable to want to disprove opposing views, but this must be done respectfully. Attacks directed to an opposing candidate rather than his or her views—an ad hominem attack—should not be normalized under any political climate, no matter how polarized. This promotes hate without disproving any political views; it simply drives a bigger wedge between the left and the right to make dialogue even less attainable.

In the 2018 Connecticut Senate election, Republican candidate Ed Charamut distributed an offensive campaign flyer against his opponent Matt Lesser. The poster portrayed an image of Lesser holding hundred dollar bills up to his face and smiling vindictively, which was inferred by many to send an anti-Semitic message. Upon winning the election, Lesser spoke about the hateful essence of the flyer, stating, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a victory, it’s a vindication…It means we’re rejecting the politics of hate and we think the best days for Connecticut are ahead.”

Attacks made on opponents rather than opposing views promote hateful messages and grow tensions between the left and the right, which hinders discussion between the two opposing groups. These attacks are an example of the politics of hate because they promote tension and anger rather than criticism of the opposition which is the only way to engage in meaningful political debates that result in policy to benefit all citizens. Once the politics of hate are brought into the equation, the two opposing sides tend to come into a debate already angry and hateful at the other side and therefore less willing to have a meaningful discussion, so effective policies are harder to achieve.

Participating in political conversation is important because many people want to voice their opinions on given issues. However, in doing so it is vital to sway away from the politics of hate and to promote criticism of the opponent’s perspective, not hatred of the opponent. It is important to note with extreme hate, which often stems from political beliefs, comes violence. As long as the politics of hate play a major role in today’s political discussions, there will always be someone who hates the opposing side enough to commit violent acts of hate. Therefore, it is crucial to minimize the tension between the left and right.


Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.

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