America is divided like never before, or at least not since that divide of all divides, the Civil War. We were divided during the Vietnam War but we weren’t as mad at each other. You were either for the war or against it. The cause was equally clear during the Civil War: the South wanted to break from the Union to preserve slavery; the North wanted to maintain the Union and abolish slavery.
Today’s divide is less defined.
There isn’t one single cause that is dividing people. The closest you can come to defining the sides is Republicans versus Democrats. Yet the two parties each represent a myriad of disparate positions on a range of issues. Why is there such polarization between these two monolithic entities?
At the risk of oversimplifying, it is mostly because there are just two political parties to choose from. Whatever your hot-button issue is, you are going to support that party regardless of who the candidate is or what other positions the party represents. What else do greedy millionaires, low-income evangelicals and white supremacists have in common besides the fact they all vote Republican?
The two parties are like teams, and we always root for our team. But there’s no sportsmanship in politics. The two parties do everything they can to demonize each other. Just look at the political “attack ads” in any election. We in turn assign hateful qualities to total strangers based on which party they support.
It is reasonable to ask if a voting public that grows more diverse by the day can continue to be properly represented by just two major political parties. There are plenty of divisions within the parties already. But they pale in comparison to the animosity between parties. How can we coexist peacefully when we have a political system that pits two sides against each other so fiercely; how can we stand united as a country when our own system tears us apart?
This is not to say the issues on which we disagree aren’t important. But they get lost in the partisanship, which takes on a life of its own. Nothing reflects this better than the Supreme Court taffy pull during the 2016 election. Within 24 hours of Justice Scalia’s death in February 2016, Republican Senators declared they would not consider any replacement nominated by President Obama, sight unseen. They announced, in advance, that they would abdicate their constitutional responsibility to evaluate and vote on the president’s nominee strictly on partisan grounds – and they got away with it.
“Trump has a solid band of hero-worshippers that might not be so quick to support other Republican candidates. But most people who voted for Trump did not do so because they loved Trump….”
Many Republicans voted for Donald Trump solely because of the Supreme Court. They’d have voted for Donald Duck if he would appoint judges sympathetic to conservative causes like eliminating abortion rights or gay marriage. Sure, Trump has a solid band of hero-worshippers that might not be so quick to support other Republican candidates. But most people who voted for Trump did not do so because they loved Trump. Most voted for the party.
Republicans came out of the election feeling like they had a mandate to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes and push through other items on their agenda when the president didn’t even win the popular vote. This completely ignores the interests of more than half the country. Yes, they won. But this is not governing for all people. It is representing only those who voted for your party.
The president has done nothing but exacerbate the divide. As president, he should set an example by rising above the rancor and criticism that comes with the job and be respectful of all points of view. Instead, his childish and vulgar name-calling in response to the slightest slight sets the tone for how people are lashing out at each other on social websites, while his urging people to distrust the media and only believe him is tired, pathetic and irresponsible.
Of course, if you are a Democrat, you have no credibility making these claims because it is just viewed as partisanship. And if you’re a Republican, you are reluctant to make them because Trump’s your guy and you hate Democrats.
How deep is the divide? While recent polls show Trump’s approval rating at about 35 percent, it is nearly 80 percent among Republicans and just 7 percent among Democrats. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s response to Charlottesville while more than 80 percent of Democrats disapproved.
Our two-party system isn’t going anywhere, folks, so how can we lessen the polarization between the two sides? Frankly, it is up to us. Politicians aren’t going to do it. We need to stop making the party someone supports a reason for scorn.
We are all more alike than different. We all want basically the same things. No one wants to see our tax dollars wasted but we shouldn’t hate each other over disagreements on how they should be allocated. No one wants crime in the streets. We all want financial prosperity, health and safety for ourselves and our families. We all want to laugh and enjoy the limited time we have on this earth.
I am a lifelong Democrat but I have many friends and family members who vote Republican. The differences in our political views do not affect our relationships because the relationships are more important than politics. We assign too much importance to our political differences – and it’s tearing us apart.
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