2024 puts American politics into an election year. Right now, American politics seems more divided than ever amongst voters. Between political parties, it seems impossible to find compromise in politics anymore. The problems are endless, and they don’t stop with politicians. Within the past two years, we have seen American voters expressing more extreme opinions than ever without shame. We have seen politicians in America who simply follow their political party without acknowledging problems. We have now come to a time when American voters will come together again to determine the political future. With the Republican primaries already starting, it seems fair to investigate how American politics became so polarizing. The answer might be surprising, and it will certainly not have a perfect answer.
Difference in voters tend to be a huge reason for the American political divide. The Pew Research Center found, "A month before the election, roughly eight-in-ten registered voters in both camps said their differences with the other side were about core American values, and roughly nine-in-ten – again in both camps – worried that a victory by the other would lead to “lasting harm” to the United States" (Pew Research Center). The research from Pew Research shows just how different American voters see each other. In the two-party system in American politics, the two parties might as well be living in two entirely different countries. The differences are so large that neither side of the debate can imagine a compromise with the other. Now the main question is, why does the divide seem so vivid between the parties in recent years? There is not one answer to this question for the American people and it won’t be a simple answer either. In fact, we might see a problem that has been growing from the past of building tensions.
As for what has caused such a divide. Political writers blame things from social media, geography in the country, and a particular turning point in American history. Many political writers and researchers have their own theories. The most interesting answer comes from a political scientist at Johns Hopkins named Lilliana Mason that says, “Alternatives between the parties are defined so badly that it is often difficult to determine what the election has decided even in broadest terms” (Mason). Lilliana Mason makes an interesting point. A part of the problem is how voters can’t seem to fathom the idea of a politician that works outside of the two-party system. The problem with that is voters will feel the need to vote for a political party instead of an individual. The problems in polarized American politics doesn’t stop here.
Ezra Klein, a political writer, and founder of news website Vox has an idea that is equally interesting. Klein argues that not only can American voters not comprehend voting outside the two-party system, but that voters in modern politics do not completely agree with who they choose to vote into office. Klein says, “What has happened to American politics in recent decades is that the parties have become more visibly, undeniably, more different, and the country has rationally become more partisan in response” (Klein). Klein is offering a remarkably interesting thought into American politics. He’s not claiming that visibility is the entire problem, but it is a part of the bigger problem. Voters are not only failing to consider politicians outside of the two major parties, but the two parties are becoming more distinctly different from one another.
Lastly, social media does not help the problem of not just differences, but also the visibility of differences. Anne E. Wilson, Victoria Parker, and Matthew Feinberg wrote a study on polarization and social media in 2020. The study found that, "Although party disagreement is an essential part of the political process, polarization and animosity based on misconceptions of the other side threatens to misdiagnose problems, leading people to battle imagined enemies and distracting from opportunities for transformative reform" (Parker, Feinberg, and Wilson). Wilson, Parker, and Feinberg's study found that social media does create a kind of polarization and animosity that leads to misconceptions. What might have been simple problems are made worse by polarizing media being consumed by individuals. To define the problem, there are lots of reasons for the current political divide. Media influence, party identity, and growing tensions are just a few parts of a much more complicated whole problem in American politics.
Dimock, M. (2020, November 13). America is exceptional in the nature of its political divide. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/11/13/america-is-exceptional-in-the-nature-of-its-political-divide/
Klein, E. (2021). Why we’re polarized. Avid Reader Press.
Library, A. A. D. (2024, January 19). American+flag+Wallpaper. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/aadl/8589885384
Mason, L. (2018). Uncivil agreement: How politics became our identity. The University of Chicago Press.
Parker, V. A., Feinberg, M., & Wilson, A. E. (2020, August 18). Polarization in the contemporary political and Media Landscape. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352154620301078?casa_token=FYUArGYcDQEAAAAA%3AdY-JuypgSs9sFx_45oa5Yj2MUxlsJfgqF-Y9rSd3E24G__ix2Ad0YKRd7OaKak9El8fqk-w_F0A#section-cited-by
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