Why is America So Politically Polarized?
The year is 1796, America is a young country full of optimism and newly procured freedom. The president at the time is today regarded as one of the most prominent leaders of all time, his name George Washington. To the surprise of all Americans during the year of 1796, George Washington declared he would not run a third time for president, as doing so he believed would violate the principles of the democratic system which America was built on. Therefore, he leaves his fellow Americans with words of advice written in his farewell address, in which he emphasized the need of America to stay united for the sake of their nation’s independence. He went on to highlight the actions which America must take to secure unity across the nation, with the most preeminent action being avoiding the creation of political parties. Fast forward 244 years later and America has two major political parties and three minor political parties. The two major political parties, the Republican and Democratic party, are firmly divided and have differing opinions on various policies. Has the development of political parties in America caused a destruction of unity as George Washington predicted 224 years ago, well just analyze the modern day society. Some people, although not the majority, will be filled with complete disgust when they see someone wearing a Trump “Make America Great Again” Hat. These people as a result may perceive these Republican followers as uneducated and distrustful, and the same applies for the way some Republican followers perceive Democratic followers. In modern America there is a clear division within politics, as oppositional political parties seek to seize control of the White House, but what has caused political polarization in America to be at, as credited Political Science professor Dr. Hetherington stated, “an all time high”?
According to Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein, America’s divide which President Washington advised against may have officially commenced in the 1960’s when major civil rights legislations were passed. From this point on African American voters began to align with the Democratic Party while white voters from the south began to side more with the Republican Party. At the time of the passage of these legislations, its effects may not have been so visible, but the same can not be said today. The effects of these legislations have created such a deep divide that today political parties are separated by race, gender, and neighborhoods. This is why today almost 80% of African Americans in the US identify themselves are Democrats rather than Republicans according to Princeton University Press. These visible differences between party followers has created such political division in America that according to Dr. Hetherington, “To an unprecedented degree, Republicans and Democrats simply do not like one another ”. Dr. Hetherington’s novel Why Washington Won’t Work highlights the fact that in modern day politics “America is polarized not as much in their policy preferences but rather in their feelings towards political opponents”. Is it possible America can be so divided that voters place their devotion towards their political party before their own political ideologies. This creates a blurry image which displays voters may vote for political parties which may not even side with their own political beliefs. Democracy For Realists continues upon this take, as it states “voters, even those who are well informed and politically engaged, mostly choose parties and candidates on the basis of social identities and partisan loyalties, not political issues”. This surprising take is backed up, as the novel provides information which displays voters since the 1960’s have had difficulty connecting their own political preferences to electoral choices. America’s polarization is so high that a multitude of voters do not even fully comprehend the political policies of their preferred political party. This statement should strike Americans with fear as it induces America to run on ineffective democracy.