Remember when the usual conversation of America was about family, kids, school, careers, concern for others, community, hard work, and, in general, the pursuit of happiness? Now it seems that the topic of American conversation is politics. 

The problem with politics is politics. Especially party line politics because it exaggerates, distorts, and takes every issue and viewpoint to the extreme. It is 24/7/365. It never ends, it never stops. It is exhausting and it is sometimes cruel.

If you grew up in the 1950s, '60s, or '70s, you probably remember your father reading the newspaper when he got home from work and on weekends after which he said little, if anything, about what he read. He kept things political to himself and did not disturb his family with most of the news. And when he voted, he was mostly quiet about that as well.

Along the way, you probably also remember your father telling you that you were not going to win every fight or get everything that you want as you go through life. You were going to lose sometimes. But his message to you was that you don’t want to be a “sore loser." In every worthwhile effort and pursuit, try hard and give it your best effort but if you lose; lick your wounds, pout a bit, and then shrug it off and get going. Try again later or maybe better yet, get behind something new and different. Life is short. Be a good sport.

Remember when campaign season and election time was exciting and fun and how we all waited anxiously learn the outcomes of everyone’s hard work and effort. It was kind of like Christmas Day. And after a few days of mulling over the outcomes, we went back to our daily lives, moved on, refreshed, and in time, re-engaged for the next election cycle.

Regrettably it seems that the Republican Party is currently bent on destroying all of that. They don’t want our election season to be a time of fair contest, excitement, and fun. Rather, they want to replace all with non-ending concern, gloom, dismay, and doubt. Their current view of future elections is that it will be a time of doubt, angst, disbelief and without finality.

 Thank goodness for Oregon’s election law. It is straightforward, simple, and works time after time with very little angst and debate. Why other states don’t simply adopt Oregon’s vote-by-mail program is a mystery. Instead Republican-led legislatures around the country are spending incredible amounts of taxpayer money and time on creating complex systems that foster doom and gloom rather than election time fun and excitement.

The Democrats and Republicans now mostly refuse to find common ground on most issues. Goodwill and respect is gone. Is the two party system failing us? Is it time for the minor parties to rise to prominence? Can elected officials ever promote and pass good legislation without first considering the political angles to their every move? Are we going to be left to wonder what went wrong? Are we in danger of becoming, because of extreme politics, “the late great America”? There are questions.

(Jim Parr lives in Keizer.)