Guest Opinion: America is stressed out — on politics

​The Kansas City Star, Feb. 25
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Feeling stressed?

We are. According to a new survey from the American Psychological Association, so are you.

Freaked out. Anxious. Nervous. That’s what America is these days, and the psychological association places the blame squarely on — you aren’t going to be the slightest bit surprised — politics.

That means the rise of President Donald Trump and the usual Washington crew that voters greatly mistrust.

The poll (yes, we know: Can you trust it?) of 1,000 adults taken right before Trump’s inauguration found that 57 percent of Americans said the political climate was a source of stress. The outcome of the 2016 presidential election? Well, 72 percent of Democrats and 26 percent of Republicans reported that the results were stressful. Asked about the nation’s future, 59 percent of Republicans agreed this was a significant stress along with 76 percent of Democrats.

This amounted to the first statistically significant jump in stress levels since the poll launched a decade ago.

It’s only fair to wonder how many Republicans felt the same way during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. But most of us can agree that Trump is a different breed of president.

So far, he has given a lot of Americans heartburn over a host of concerns, and this is only a short list: Russia, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the environment, his frenetic pace, hacking, the growing sense that what the president says today may be the polar opposite of what he says tomorrow, the uncertainty over just where this administration is headed, his bumper car-style of diplomacy and, of course, immigration.

Here’s a disconcerting thought: The American Psychological Association suggests that the anxiety won’t go away soon.

“The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it,” said the psychological association’s Katherine Nordal.

Political yak hovers around the water cooler, the dinner table and the backyard fence. Then there’s social media.

Is there an antidote to all this politically induced stress? Probably not, unless you want to count an utterly unexpected development last week that flashed across our computer screens. Rep. Roger Marshall, a freshman in Congress from western Kansas, took to the House floor to announce that he believed in civility and bipartisanship.

At first glance, the significance of this may fly right past you. But consider that the Republican whom Marshall defeated in August was Tim Huelskamp, widely seen as one of the most partisan House members. Huelskamp even went to war with his own party, and it cost him a seat on the Agriculture Committee.

On the floor, Marshall said: “I believe in iron sharpening iron and coming up with ideas together. I believe in defining problems together — to talk about the problem and then to discuss solutions together. And the hope is that you and I, my friends across the aisle and down the aisle, together we can come up with better solutions for this country.”

Wow. That’s 180 degrees from where Huelskamp stood, and it places Marshall in the same camp as Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat who has championed civility from his first moments in Washington.

The next time you start to stress about politics, think of the Marshalls and the Cleavers. It might help.