The fuzzy, warm, feel-good, get-along spirit of the Christmas season is all but impossible when it comes to our politics.

It’s highly likely you’ll be heading to Christmas dinner with the whole family, surrounded by love and cheer exchanging gifts and pleasantries. But then, Uncle Joe says something to Uncle Donald (while Aunt Nancy looks on with that, “Oh boy” look). And with that, a jolly Christmas boils into political warfare.

Sadly, the only part of that scenario that’s highly unlikely is if you actually have relatives named Joe, Donald, and Nancy — but not completely out of the realm of possibility. If you do, please contact me. Fame and fortune await.

But seriously, are you frustrated with everything you read or see about our politics? If so, you might want to think twice before blaming one side or the other. After all, we’re the ones that created this mess through our ignorance, ambivalence, laziness, or (at best) our naïveté.

I have two personal experiences that have led me to this unfortunate conclusion.

The first was a conversation with someone who believes in free market capitalism, competition, and less government. If you run a business badly, in their mind, you should probably go out of business, not get bailed out. The second was someone who believes in increasing the minimum wage, that tariffs are a way of balancing our trade deficit; and that if you run a business badly but employ a lot of people, you deserve a government bailout.

I’d like you to think about those two, and guess which party each belongs to. Done? The first was a Democrat who essentially believes conservative theories, and the second a Republican who believes in borderline-socialist economic theories. You know when a dog tilts its head sideways when it hears something interesting? That’s what I did.

Party realignment is nothing new. Different times attract citizens to different theories. That’s why populist President Donald Trump actually shares some policy views with populist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and lots of others — at least when it comes to tariffs and bailouts.

To me, it’s scary when people don’t know why they’re voting for someone. But what’s outright frightening is the language being used.

In my conversations with them, the Democrat used the word “hate” toward Trump and Republicans in general. The self-proclaimed, die-hard Trump fan calls Democrats “evil” and “the enemy.”

Even former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, someone familiar with political fights, has recounted stories of one colleague referring to another as “the enemy.”

Those words — hate, evil, and the enemy — are all powerful and shouldn’t be used to describe a fellow countryman who believes in a different ideology than you. Personally, I hate anchovies, I think the Taliban is evil, and that North Korea is the enemy.

Whatever my personal feelings toward Trump, Biden or Pelosi, I don’t hate them, and I certainly don’t believe they are the enemy.

For all the political back and forth on television over impeachment and regardless of whether you’re a fan of the president, educate yourself instead of listening to the pundits on CNN or Fox.

In about 11 months, the nation will be voting for new elected officials. It breaks my heart when I hear my friends spout out things like “I’m voting straight ticket Democrat” or “Republican” because they hate Trump or his Democratic challenger. Will you vote for Sanders (or whoever) even if you disagree with 99 percent of their platform? That makes no sense to me.

There are so many tools online, such as that I personally use every few months to see which candidate my ideology best aligns with. I’m a political geek, so you may not check as often as I do, but at the very least go through the assessment before you cast your votes next year.

If you think the nation is in a bad spot now because of ignorance, just imagine where we’ll be in 2024 if we once again add together ignorance and emotions to vote.

We don’t quite need that warm feeling of togetherness, but it does matter how we let our politics make us feel.

Rouzy Vafaie is a former Charleston County Republican Party leader.

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