President Obama hands over office to President Trump
PC: DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

If you are looking for political commentary, both informed and uninformed, from across the ideological spectrum, Twitter is the place to go. Rarely do I find myself asking any questions of great merit after a scroll through the political Twitterverse, but one has been coming to mind lately: Can we clap for our political enemies? 

I’m not talking about clapping when they win their elections, stumping for their pet causes, or rushing out to buy the latest book they wrote. I’m not even talking about being kind to such people – that should already be a given. You can loudly oppose someone in the political arena and still smile at them. 

No — I’m talking about being able to clap when someone you politically disagree with does something you support. 

Can a staunch, Trump supporting Republican clap for a Democrat if that Democrat stands against abortion?

Can a Green New Deal and Medicare-For-All supporting Democrat clap for President Trump if he were to sign legislation legalizing marijuana? 

Since the surge of political tribalism, our ire towards opposing political ideologies has grown and grown. But it’s not necessarily anger that withholds our support when we end up on the same side as our enemies. Arthur Brooks diagnosed the problem well in his book, Love Your Enemies

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.”

Our contempt often blinds us. Refusing to clap for a political enemy when they take the same stance as us on an issue simply because we stand against them on so many others is foolishness. 

To be sure, this is not the easiest thing in a world where people don’t realize you can disagree without being disagreeable. A handful of examples come quickly to my mind where I agreed with some local Democrats on different issues, but was treated with such contempt and hate because of my overall political beliefs that working with them was a non-starter. 

But we can choose to act with grace, maturity, and decency even when those around us still cling to contempt. We certainly won’t clap for our political enemies on everything. But when we land on the same side, hopefully we see through tribal barriers enough to give them a roaring round of applause.

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