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Division in America: Greater Than a House

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The extreme partisanship of American political parties is creating a concerning divide.

The political parties that run the politics of our country have created a constructive discourse that has made powerful policies for centuries. However, as politics are weaving their way into everyday life at an increasing rate, the America that has prided itself on democracy could face a scary future. 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand” – Abraham Lincoln

The infamous divide of the Democratic and Republican parties is the foundation for our government’s harsh political polarization. In a study conducted by The New York Times, about 80 to 85 percent of Americans follow politics casually or not at all. About 15 to 20 percent follow it closely, those who would be considered strong partisans for their party. When the citizens were asked what political issues they see as most important, Republicans were significantly more likely to cite illegal immigration as one of the top issues.

For Democrats, that issue was hardly noted. However, the overall numbers fall on a much less polarized scale. For example, “Democrats and Republicans who don’t follow politics closely believe[d] that low hourly wages [we]re one of the most important problems facing the country.” For hard partisans on both sides, the topic was rarely even mentioned.

This evidence presents a surprising, yet understandable conclusion. The issue of America’s polarization does not lie within the majority of the parties themselves; it is the extreme members that create obstacles to finding common goals. Our parties tend to advertise the most partisan views of the opposing, such as liberals advertising racist or homophobic behavior by extremists who call themselves conservatives. Another example is the constant coverage of rioters, criminals, and ANTIFA terrorists to represent an entire population of democrats looking for social change.

As American citizens, we are allowing the minority of political party members to headline politics and create massive rifts in the government. From a majority perspective, Democrats and Republicans have relatively the same goals. The problem arises when we overlook the similarities to boost certain parties’ credibility.

These animals, representing the two political parties, demonstrate harsh discourse amongst partisans, an increasingly common trend.

So, where does our government play a role exactly? It starts with Congress. Our congress runs on a numbers-based system, where the slim majority of votes separate the winners from the losers. The losers are then shoved aside in the actual governing process, no matter how many Americans they represent.  In America, the president often wins elections where they did not receive the popular vote.

The graph above shows that when the government was equally run by both sides, polarization deeply decreases.

The same goes for the Senate, which causes the Supreme Court to be run by the party with fewer votes as well. From the undeniably truthful evidence, it is clear we have a system that is not democratic; three of the four major power centers in American politics are controlled by the party that won fewer votes in the key elections. We have this system where power is split up in a way that is not seen in parliamentary systems.

It is this system where a high level of compromise is needed, a high level of agreement, and a lot of willingness to see the other party as legitimate to help them govern, not do things that can actively be done under the rules to sabotage them. You need to let them govern. It is in that system that polarization makes America functionally ungovernable.

The system itself allows for polarization to flourish. As our social media-driven, activistic society continues to evolve, our political system is losing its stability. We simply need to do better if we want to save our government from potential corruption. We need to engage in polite discourse more often. We need to look at majority statistics to find common ground. Most importantly, we need to not be quick to assumptions that half of America is morally inflicted. Only then can we take a look at our government to improve its hostile polarizing agenda.