Shut it Down? The Dangers of Increasingly Polarized Parties

It seems we have reached a new low in American politics. Partisan rancor is growing as candidates and office holders seek to demonize their opponents, both fellow politicians and members of the media. Our faith in our institutions of government has been reduced to the point that even the democratic elections forming the heart of our nation are in question. Both major parties are at fault, with Democrats blaming Russian tampering for Republican victories, and Republicans turning to accusations of voter fraud to explain their own defeats. We have reached a time where no matter who wins a given national election, nearly half of the country is willing and eager to question the validity of the vote.

Our nation has come a long way from the days of Ronald Reagan having drinks with then-Democrat Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill. Rather than encourage the population with images of bipartisanship, one can imagine such an arrangement between Trump and Pelosi would only result in lower poll numbers for the both of them. We have come to a point where it is considered easier to demonize the opposition than engage in a civil discussion of ideas; the other party is no longer merely mistaken as to the best direction for the country to take, they are now fully engaged in undermining the very foundations of our democracy.

It is no understatement to argue this attitude represents a more significant threat to our democracy than voter fraud and Russian meddling combined. Sure, claiming your opponent is hell-bent on turning our nation into a fascist dictatorship makes for a more exciting fundraising pitch, but it also gets away from the truth of the situation. In the vast majority of cases, members of the opposite party are not actively plotting the destruction of our nation. Even if they have different ways of making it happen, they genuinely want what is best for the country.

Having recognized that, it is much easier for politicians to work alongside and compromise with members of the other party. While disagreements over large issues, such as immigration or entitlement spending, will remain, there are ample opportunities for bipartisanship once you get beyond the idea the other party is the embodiment of evil itself. For example, members of both parties can come together to work on issues such as prison reform and rural broadband expansion.

Thus, the next time you feel tempted to engage in a vitriolic debate with a person of different political views, do the nation a favor and focus on the issues you agree upon rather than browbeating each other over positions neither of you is willing to change. Only by working together, rather than in opposition, can both major parties reach the type of fair and logical compromises that will truly advance the interests of the America we know and love.