I know many people are probably tired of reading about politics, and with good reason. I’ve never seen the media so saturated with one topic; even in past elections, it wasn’t this inescapable.
For most of us, if you own an iPhone or television, you probably heard election news almost every day for about the past year. I commend all of us for sitting through it.
We’re living in a time that feels very divided in American politics. We’ve lost common ground and it seems like the moderate liberals and moderate conservatives are a thing of the past.
According to Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Democrats say the Republican Party makes them “afraid,” and 49 percent of Republicans say the same thing about Democrats. We increasingly antagonize the other side, thinking our way is right and the other side is driving the country into the ground.
How did it get this way? Both presidential candidates this year had record low approval ratings. What happened to the days when we could at least agree on some things? The one thing we can agree on is that we want what’s best for the country as a whole, but now, the idea of “what’s best” has become different for the two parties.
Of the modern presidents, John F. Kennedy had the highest average approval rating. From his inauguration in January 1961 to his assassination in November 1963, he held an average approval rating of 70 percent.
I wonder now if America as a whole will ever get 70 percent of its population to agree on anything ever again. Look at the issues that Kennedy dealt with: communism, the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. Almost all Americans had the same opinion on communism–that it was the enemy–and same with the Cold War.
I think at least most people agreed that the Jim Crow laws and other racial discrimination was wrong. Now look at the issues being dealt with by Obama and Trump: climate change, a good amount of us believe it’s a hoax, abortion, many think it’s immoral, gun rights, some want more and some want less, and the economy, where we all have different ideas on how to fix it. Even police brutality and political correctness have become polarizing issues.
The two parties have vastly different visions for the future of the country and that’s the exact problem;there’s only two visions.
The very notion that there’s only two major political parties in this country is another large factor in America’s polarized politics. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have a set of clear positions on just about every issue.
Every election cycle, we wonder if this is the year that a third party candidate finally breaks through to the mainstream. This year, for a while, looked like the year it was going to happen, with both major party candidates having such low approval ratings and Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, was gaining ground for a while.
Johnson realized that the appeal of a third party candidate was that they’re different from what voters are used to, but Johnson was almost too different.
He, at one point, pretended to have a heart attack at an event when an anti-marijuana advocate claimed that marijuana increased one’s chances of a heart attack. Johnson even admitted that he had indulged in marijuana use not long before his presidential run began picking up speed. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to reach the 15 percent polling mark required to participate in presidential debates.
The two party system can be blamed for much of our separation. In a society that’s becoming increasingly complex, there needs to be more than just two political schools of thought.
I believe it’s vital that some other party pick up speed in the future, as this polarizing trend has made our politics somewhat toxic. We need a fresh pool of ideas and someone to level the playing field, but for the time being, everyone remember that we are all Americans and, for the most part, we cherish the same values.
Elliot Weld can be contacted at Eweld@kscequinox.com