Political attitudes have attained an almost religious fervor. Many are concerned about the coarsening of our national dialogue. One candidate relies on bluster, bullying and misinformation. In his frustration, the other candidate responds with words like “shut up,” “clown” and “liar” despite what used to be the formality of a presidential debate. How did we get to this situation?

We hear patriotic words from a man who actively appeals to only a small segment of citizens, calls our free press the enemy of the people, represses our freedom of thought by actively scrubbing science facts from government websites; who openly discusses questioning the election results and ignoring the peaceful transfer of power. He carelessly recycles white supremacist fantasies and Russian misinformation. He excuses and admires tyrants and calls for his political opponents to be prosecuted. His personal debts raise the question of his allegiances. The cult that used to be a political party has no platform but submits to the mercurial whims of one man governed by selfishness and vanity.

The greater the contradictions and inconsistencies Republicans are confronted with, the more hardened in their beliefs they become. They provoke primal responses to imaginary issues. Their operative principle has become “if we repeat it often enough, they will believe.” They describe others as less than worthy citizens.

Deep in the pandemic, America has some of the highest rates of infections and deaths on the planet despite having less than 5% of the world’s population. Many accept this situation and openly resist even the simplest precautions, professing freedom of choice and economic concerns. Tragically, had we followed the science and embraced mask-wearing, the epidemic would be diminishing instead of increasing. Any opportunity to safely reopen the economy was squandered. Incompetence is ignored, highlighted by the inability to keep the White House virus free.

Republicans speak of a bigger, better health care plan at the same time they are fighting in court to remove protections for existing conditions and weaken existing health care.

As happened with the last GOP president, the economy is in tatters, with no plan for rebuilding. Tax cuts are their only economic remedy. The “greatest economy ever” is an illusion. Millions are in need.

Conspiracy theories are given as the reason for this administration’s failures. When the free press exercises their 1st Amendment rights by repeating statements or uncovering actions, they are branded “fake news” and conveniently dismissed. The often repeated phrase of “draining the swamp” is a smokescreen for giving their donors what they want in return for fund raisers and inaugurals and bringing business to Trump properties. Tax giveaways have further enriched corporations.

America is better than this. Unquestioning beliefs must be challenged by facts. We must reverse the actions of this cult and make science-based choices. Demand that we face the environmental, financial and health care crises with intelligence instead of recriminations and empty words. Cooperation and empathy are essential. Freedom requires taking responsibility for our fellow citizens not embracing selfishness.

Foreman is vice chairman of the Warren County Democratic Committee and a long-time county resident