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Here’s to treason on July 4th!

Katie Aiani, left, Chad Evett, center, and Miguel Godinez pose for photographers in Colonial Era costumes on the opening night of the Los Angeles run of "Hamilton: An American Musical" at the Pantages Theatre Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Happy Fourth! It’s the day we honor a bunch of contentious revolutionaries for committing treason.

When I hear people complain about today’s political climate, I like to refer to one of my favorite passages from “Hamilton.” Not the musical, but the book by Ron Chernow that inspired it. (Page 391 if you’re following along.) It’s about political parties.

Chernow writes, “The sudden emergence of parties set a slashing tone for politics in the 1790’s….politicians bristled at charges they harbored partisan feelings, and were quick to perceive hypocrisy in others….The Federalists (Hamilton’s party) saw themselves as saving America from anarchy, while Republicans (Jefferson’s party) believed they were rescuing America from counter-revolution.

“Each side possessed a lurid distorted view of the other, buttressed by an idealized sense of itself… It was also not self-evident that the two parties would smoothly alternate in power, raising the unsettling prospect that one party might be established to the permanent exclusion of the other…. As the Party spirit grew more acrimonious, Hamilton and Washington (they were allies) regarded much of the criticism fired at their administration as disloyal, even treasonous…”

So what’s really changed?

People ask me, why can’t politicians at least be civil? Because that’s up to the voters. As long as we have free elections, which I hope is a long time, candidates will say whatever it takes to win. If it takes civility to win, they will be civil. And if it takes bullying to win, they won’t.

Read more of Dave Ross’ commentaries, which air on KIRO Radio every day at 7:35 a.m. 

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