The division of Americans caused by politics has never been as strong as it is today. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, more than 70% of Americans feel that the country is facing extreme polarization due to the current state of politics. Civil debate among friends has turned into heated arguments as fewer people can find a commonality among ideologies or open their minds to the opinions of others.
Typically, people identify as either a Democrat or a Republican. The ability to find a middle ground has disappeared as the devices used to further political agendas have been maneuvered to divide the American population. This strong separation of the public has created an us-versus-them mentality among political parties, Democratic and Republican alike. Allowing for compromise seems to be viewed as letting the other side win, and this is simply unacceptable. For progress to be achieved in any manner, our political parties must be more willing to work with each other on issues.
This leads to my second point – it seems as if there are hardly any people with open minds when it comes to politics in contemporary America. Each party decides what is common sense, and this is accepted as truth. Well, obviously, we need our guns. This is common sense. Obviously, healthcare should be universal. This is common sense. What is or is not “common sense” lies on party lines. If one debates another’s idea of what is common sense, there is an immediate sense of hostility and condescension towards that person, rather than an attitude of trying to learn, teach, or understand.
Contrasting political views are enough to destroy our relationships with one another. Hearing what a friend thinks politically can completely wreck how we think of them, and most times there is no effort made to understand where their beliefs are coming from. There is instead anger, stemming from questions such as “How could they possibly think this?” The question, though, is rarely spoken aloud to the one who stated the opinion. This further pushes the idea that there are two “sides,” consisting of the two main political parties, and that we cannot cross these sides because we are absolutely correct in our own ideas of what is right.
Politicians use our separation by political party to their advantage, strengthening the support they receive. Thirty-six percent of Republicans and twenty-seven percent of Democrats see the opposite party as a threat to the nation, so politicians tell their parties that they will “win” against the other side, which emphasizes the us-versus-them mentality. This helps the politician gain more support because the majority of the people in their political party want to “beat” the opposite party, so they will support whoever they need to in order to make that happen.
Until we relearn how to compromise in politics as a country, there will never be a substantial amount of progress made in areas like legislation. We will continue to lack understanding for those in a political party opposite our own, and we will continue to lose friendships over what we believe because we do not try to understand that we are all Americans.