Last night President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden debated in the last of 3 presidential debates. The candidates debated an array of topics but what surprised voters most was the hostile way the candidates acted towards each other. The debate with all its name-calling and interruption was reflective of the major divide in American politics.
Although the spiteful way both candidates acted may have surprised many, politics has increasingly divided Americans for decades. In fact according to research done by the Pew Research Center, “The share of Democrats who are liberal…has nearly doubled from just 30% in 1994 to 56% today” while the “The GOP ideological shift over the past decade has matched, if not exceeded, the rate at which Democrats have become more liberal.” This shift to the extreme means that Americans are agreeing less and less on all sorts of political issues such as abortion, immigration, guns, and even race. Furthermore, this divide is not just shown in the public but rather in Congress as well. According to the Columbia Law Review, “congressional polarization has been steadily and consistently increased since the 1980s” as a result of republicans moving becoming more conservative since the Regan administration, and new members of congress.
This divide not only affects our governmental policies but our relationships with others. The reason for this is because political polarization in the United States is not just simple disagreement over policies but rather more complex. Instead of defining themselves as just Americans, many today define themselves by their political views disconnecting us from the other side creating rifts in our schools, workplaces, communities, friendships, and relationships. For instance, polls conducted by the Pew Research Center found that almost half of Americans don’t have a close personal relationship with someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Worse still, surveys have found that more than 70% of single democrats would not date someone who voted for President Trump. This “political tribalism” has even led to people segregating themselves from people on the opposite end of the political spectrum, as more and more Americans choose to live and surround themselves with those who look and think just like them.
The United States is a melting pot of different people, religions, and ideologies. It was founded by men who came from different walks of life, such as Jefferson who was the son of a plantation owner, and Hamilton who grew up an orphan and immigrated to the United States. Although both of these men differed in their upbringing and ideological beliefs both of them were united in their love for their nation and worked together to better their country. As we watch the election unfold, we should not neglect the example that Jefferson and Hamilton set for our leaders and remember that there is more that unites Americans than divides us.