What James Madison Didn’t See Coming: When a factioned society becomes an extremist culture

We have become the threat to our own nation. Forty-three percent of Republicans believe Democrats are a threat to our nation’s well-being while 38% of Democrats believe Republicans are the true threat (Doherty, 2014). The individuals in each of these parties feels so strongly that many admit most friends they have share their political beliefs. We have cultivated a nation where anyone who attempts to stand in the middle is ostracized for being a traitor to their people. Because “we the people” no longer includes the all people of the nation, but instead only the people we agree with. This is an issue not only overlooked by the 2016 presidential candidates but perpetuated by them. Polarization within our political parties is a rarely discussed topic by our politicians but is an issue that will have an extremely negative impact on the upcoming generation, as those coming of age today only see things in the very black and white system of politics we have created.

When googling “the dumbest things the candidates have said during their campaigns so far”, you will find lists containing misstatements about women’s right, misrepresentations of financial worth, insensitivity to issues in the middle east, and so on. These are all incredibly important issues that should be handled with care that many candidates are not, but there is not one bullet or number on any of those lists that mentions propagating polarized political views. This is because those statements are not considered dumb or stupid or idiotic, but instead are accepted by the American people as facts. When Ted Cruz’s “Office Space” themed advertisement says that Hillary Clinton is “a shameless politician, always plays her cards right”, republicans are expected to think, well yes, of course; she is a Democrat (Gass, 2016). And when Hillary’s “Grinch” themed ad says she’ll stop GOP candidates “from reaching their extreme, grinchy goals”, democrats nod and think setting “grinchy” goals is innate to identifying as a member of the Republican Party (Chambers, 2015).

Democrats have to love immigrants and republicans have to always carry a gun. Democrats fight for the poor and republicans love the rich. These are considered defining attributes of each party in our current society, yet none of opinions are at the foundation of what either of these parties were built upon. As necessary as representative factions are to our political system and as important as it is that we have multiple positions represented in our governing body, we have created extremist parties that have become counterproductive to lawmaking and governance. James Madison fought for the creation of factions in society. He believed it was necessary for a nation to have many sectors and people with differing beliefs (Madison, 2016). However, there is a fine line between a “factioned” society and an extremist culture, and we have begun to fall with the latter. It can be argued that this is because we have created a two party system, and there should instead be a multitude of factions, or it can also be said that the true problem is in the polarization within the parties, not the limited number of them. Either way, there is a flaw within this structure that is not being addressed by any of the presidential candidates, and is unknown to much of the millennial population.

The negative impacts of this type of system include issues in policy-making due to increased difficulty in passing bills within a divided government as well as the outcome of these policies. A polarized governing body that is focused more on standing by their party’s beliefs than actually making sure the policies are framed in a way that helps the American people can cause economic and social inequalities that would not surface otherwise. This gridlock prevents us from creating new, progressive policies that prevent discrimination in our society. In 2013 we reached such a stalemate in congress that our government shut down before the legislative body came to a consensus on an issue.

The main impact this issue has directly on my generation is that this is clearly a failing system, and because we grow up and watch the governing body attempt to function in its current state, we do not know any different. As a whole, we are ill-informed about what beliefs are actually at the foundation of each party and are more interested in the stances on social issues we believe are integral to each party. Very few people in my generation are aware of their own party’s beliefs, let alone the one they oppose. Because this issue is not addressed as an actual problem, especially by our presidential candidates, we will never attempt to fix this internal flaw.

There have been polls and studies created to test the knowledge of millennials on topics related to government. For example, a poll was done showing that 42% of millennials believe socialism is a better system than capitalism. However, only 32% of that same sample says they prefer a government managed economy to a free market economy (Ekins, 2014). This is a real life story of how this issue impacts my generation. This, along with the plethora of other studies created, show that millennials are improperly educated on topics they must have knowledge on as they begin to influence the political world.

While there is no one solution that will fix such a deep-seeded issue in our government and society as a whole, there are various areas within our society that can encourage a more moderate outlook on politics as well as providing youth with thorough knowledge on the political party system rather than the associations we make with it today. The presidential candidates could make the one of the largest impacts by aligning their positions on issues based on their party’s core beliefs rather than how they socially identify. The media, in reference to news outlets, also help in perpetuating this problem, and by simply reframing their subject choices to cause less friction between parties rather than more, they could help foster moderate ideals among the youth that would make the upcoming generations less likely to be so intensely polarized in the future.