When I arrived in Keene in 1985, I was soon made aware of the community’s nonpartisan political culture. For more than 30 years, I’ve not known, nor cared to know, the political affiliation of either the mayors or the city councilors.

In some measure, the local culture reflected the national spirit. This is not to suggest nasty differences didn’t exist during the Reagan years; far from it. But Sen. Warren Rudman (R) could remain friends with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D), and Rep. Tip O’Neil (D) was known for his “after 6 p.m.” friendships with Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — all Republicans.

When out of the majority, politicians in the minority party were commonly known as “the loyal opposition.” They remained, in other words, American patriots, while being political opponents. I don’t believe I’ve recently heard members of either party refer to opponents as “the loyal opposition.” In fact, they increasingly treat one another as enemies, not opponents. Democrats are sometimes labeled “socialists” while Republicans might be tagged “fascists.”

This is dangerous, especially in our gun-happy culture. Before placing a bull’s eye over the image of a political opponent, one might take time to look back at the 1920s and ‘30s and see how socialists and fascists responded to one another.

I raise this issue because I believe the time has arrived for voters to be informed where our local candidates for office stand. Selecting to represent a political party means far more today than having differences over taxes and foreign policy. The divide between the parties is too great to be ignored; it suggests fundamental differences over issues such as a woman’s right to an abortion, gun control, refugee sanctuary, immigration law, universal health care, public education, global warming and a host of lesser issues that are important to each of us.

Tip O’Neill was famous for saying “all politics is local.” The time may have arrived for citizens of our small city to know a bit more about who they are voting for. In today’s America, the simple label “R” or “D” can tell us a good deal.

PAUL VINCENT

24 Gates St.

Keene