According to the Pew Research Center, “55 percent of Democrats say that the Republican Party makes them ‘afraid,’ while 49 percent of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party”. When asked about whether the other party’s policies threaten the nation, 45 percent of Republicans believe this exemplifies the Democratic Party and 41 percent of Democrats feel the same about Republicans. The political polarization has never been so severe even through past elections. The American National Election Studies shows an upward trend in negative feelings about the opposing party. Political Polarization not only calls for feelings of distrust and hostility throughout the parties, but it is hindering the central goal of the government—to work for the people.
The pressure to agree with all and every policy, if you are a member of either party, prevents critical discussions on the local level and legal challenging of the new legislation of a party. We see this in the change of criticism from Republicans about Donald Trump before the election and after. The constant condemnations of Trump and his remarks from the Republican Party have long disappeared as the Republicans maintain control over the House and Senate. Most of Trump’s executive actions have received little criticism or even praise from his former Republican critics such as Paul Ryan. Maintaining good relations with the President is necessary for pushing GOP agenda through the senate. However, lack of criticism from prominent Republican leaders like Ryan show an adherence to turning a blind eye for the purpose of maintaining control of congress. As a result, the government, the House, and the Senate has become a place where it is about the color of the seats rather than the actual legislation that passes through. This creates a culture of compliance within the parties and deviation from the party isn’t encouraged.
The danger of this is that the House and Senate vote on things based on their personal beliefs or the party agenda but ignore the interests of the rest of the population. Because of the animosity between parties, bi-partisanship is so hard to achieve and has become the exception rather than the rule in current politics. Even more detrimental, because deviation of the party is not encouraged, it allows the ease of access of outright racist and xenophobic appointees to the cabinet such as Jeff Sessions or Stephen K. Bannon. The polarization of politics has led to the normalization of extreme rhetoric solely for voter support. The polarization of politics is extremely harmful especially in today’s times because we as a people cannot even count on our government to oppose appointees of the President because of the desire of the Republicans in Congress to keep control.
Political Polarization has also infiltrated the general public. One cannot seem a good Republican until they are strictly pro-life or against gun laws. This adds to the opinion of Democrats about Republicans and Republicans about Democrats. Because of this constant pressure to be within party lines, generalization about parties can occur. Statements like “All Republicans hate women” or “Democrats support hand-outs” are much more likely to be said.
It is this shifting culture in politics that allows things like a gridlock to happen. The inability to compromise proves to become detrimental. The fact is that not all of the U.S. is liberal or conservative. When Congress is mostly made up of one party, the neglect of a large portion of the U.S. surfaces. More than ever, political apathy is poisonous. Big elections do not only happen every four years, they happen every two years when we have the choice to vote for our congressmen.