No one ever says a good word about partisanship. Polarization and incivility also get very little love.

So, it’s strange that our politics gets more partisan, polarized and mean-spirited every day.

It’s not what people say they want, but this is a democracy and all of these politicians win elections. Somebody must like what they are selling.

Watch a video of a Trump rally, or listen to Gov. LePage read one of his radio addresses. These are men who act like they do not even know the words to “Kumbaya.” They say things that would have ended a politician’s career in another time, and the only consequence is a fired-up base.

Don’t look at me to be the one to say that civil discourse is for losers, or mindless partisanship is the best way to organize a big, complex country. But I will say this:

We have to accept that things are never going to go back to “normal.”

“Normal” wasn’t as great as people remember.

Despite the aphorisms, history doesn’t repeat. It goes one way only and what you see now is the raw material for the future.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the events of 1968. Over the last few months we’ve been reminded of the Tet Offensive, LBJ’s shocking withdrawal from the presidential race, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Coming up will be the anniversaries of the riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago and Richard Nixon’s narrow-victory in a three way contest in which a blatantly racist candidate, George Wallace, won five states.

There were a lot of commentaries that pointed out what a terrible period of our history that was, and more than a few that pointed out that we are living through another period that is equally strange.

Some of these commentaries were strangely optimistic. If we could survive 1968, they argued, we should be able to get through whatever it is that’s happening now.

But did we really survive ’68?

Nixon was determined to make sure that there would be no more close elections for him and the U.S. government has never regained the people’s trust it lost as a result of his “political intelligence” operation that could play “offense and defense,” which we usually describe with the shorthand “Watergate.” Wallace showed Republicans how to pry the south away from the Democrats and they are still doing it. How would the ’70s and ’80s have been different with a Kennedy or King on hand?

Nothing went back to normal after 1968 – we moved on to the ’70s. And if you are wondering if that was a normal decade, you should watch “Taxi Driver.”

We also need to stop making the past look better than it was. Nostalgia is a disease.

The three decades after World War II are often held up as an ideal time that we should try to emulate. Our economy was growing, the middle class was expanding and major pieces of landmark legislation – the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid – were passed on a bipartisan basis.

But not everybody was part of the golden age. Blacks were left out. Women were left out. People with disabilities were left out. White male Democrats hung out with white male Republicans, drinking free booze and cheating on their wives. Of course they got along.

We’re not going back, but we are going forward bringing a lot of baggage from the age of Trump with us.

We argue about health care and taxes, but the real divide is race. And that’s difficult to talk about because the nation’s largest demographic group – non-Hispanic whites, generally don’t consider themselves to be part of a racial group. As whites, we wish everybody would stop talking about race, while we gravitate to the Republican Party, and everybody else goes to the Democrats. As the country gets more racially diverse, this self sorting is probably going to continue, heightening the divide.

Maybe Roseanne Barr and Curt Shilling are right, and maybe all of our politics is a smoke screen created to hide a shadow war inside the Deep State that will be soon be revealed in the coming “Storm,” which has been foretold by a social media commenter named “Q.”

But if not, we’re going to be a sharply divided, polarized, angry country, whether we like it or not.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: gregkesich

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