Politics is exhausting.

Nothing has recently served as a better reminder of that than Donald Trump’s CNN town hall appearance this week. It’s not just that the event was terrible (and it absolutely was); what concerns me is the vitriolic and utterly useless news cycle that followed, proving that neither party has a monopoly on close-mindedness, partisan hackery, or contempt for cross-party discourse.

We’d much rather just scream at each other, engage in dense, feel-good gossip about how dense the other side is, and never get face-to-face for open dialogue with each other. That’s the new American way. And for those of us who are not fiercely loyal to either party, it can be exhausting. After all, another thing neither party has a monopoly on is truth. And truth-telling can sometimes take a backseat to my-candidate-can-do-no-wrong (or the-other-side-can-do-no-good) dogmatism.

First, we must admit that the town hall debate accomplished absolutely nothing (except for maybe
boosting Joe Biden’s reelection campaign). Sure, Trump addicts might have found some dopaminergic pleasure in watching Trump call Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person.” But isn’t his routine getting a bit old? Trump insults someone; MAGA America howls with laughter; potential voters are put off. It’s worked like clockwork for coming up on eight years now.

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But besides that, did the event accomplish anything? Of course not. It just gave us all one more reason to be angry.

The right—despite enjoying the melee—is furious at Trump for straying into enemy territory. They’re also furious at Collins for asking hard questions. The left—despite openly advocating for “more, rather than less” of Trump—is furious at CNN for inviting the enemy.

And I mean furious.

Read the headlines. The only news the town hall made was a debate over whether the town hall should have been made at all. The morning after, America didn’t talk about the substance of the event—because there was none. We talked about the “dangers” of listening to people whom we disagree with.

And I’m afraid to say that’s where America has found itself.

So accustomed to living either inside Truth Social or NYT echo chambers—where it’s easy to mischaracterize and laugh at the other side—we forget that there is a real world out there, with real people, and sometimes, we have to talk to them. It’s much easier to contend with our caricature of the opponent than with the real thing. Tribalism is much easier than debate.

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What makes open dialogue so “dangerous” is that it risks exposing double standards and hypocrisies. It tells the half of the story an audience might not otherwise hear.

For example, imagine the conservative outrage if Biden called a journalist who pressed him on a question a “nasty person.” The right would be incensed. They’d talk about it for days.

When Trump does it, though, the very same people celebrate.

But on the other hand, imagine if any journalist ever actually pressed Biden on a question. It’s unthinkable.

So the right gets mad that the left doesn’t ask Biden hard questions. But the right also gets mad when the left asks Trump hard questions. Then the left defends and, in fact, praises asking Trump hard questions, but, of course, still refuses to do the same to their own. And in the end, everyone gets mad for even consorting in the first place, and we all retreat back to our respective tribes.

As a fellow Citizens for Self-Governance author recently put it, it seems we have “collectively retreated from a battle on the open field… [and] entered an arguably more precarious Cold War situation…” 

Americans are increasingly giving up on even trying to reach the other side. The overwhelmingly negative response to CNN simply hosting a town hall for Trump is a symptom of that.

We’re living in an era of tribalism, and when everyone is shouting and no one is listening, it can be exhausting, indeed.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance. 

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