In 2016, PEW Research released a poll showing the ever widening gap between the two mainstream political parties. This gap, which reached a record level high under the Obama Administration, continues to grow under the Trump Administration. President Trump, his allies, and those who oppose him have done little to help unite our increasingly divided country.
This split on issues has grown rapidly in the past 20 years. In 2014, 92% of Republicans were more conservative leaning than liberal. Compared to 70% in 2004 and 64% in 1994. While Democrats stood at 94% in 2014. An increase from 68% in 2004 and 70% in 1994. An increase of 22 points for the Republican party and 26 points for the Democrat party in just the past 10 years.
The middle continues to shrink. in 2014, 39% of Americans held roughly the same number of liberal and conservative positions. Yet, that is a decrease in 10 points from 49% in 2004 and in1994.
As noted, the proportion of Americans who are now more uniformly ideological has doubled over the last decade: About one-in-five Americans (21%) are now either consistently liberal (12%) or consistently conservative (9%) in their political values, up from just one-in-ten in 2004 (11%) and 1994 (10%).
— Pew Research, 2016
The common values and beliefs that have helped hold our country together are slipping. And while change in some areas is needed — and good, no one should be vilified or demonized simply because they are hesitant or wary of it.
Fully 71% think interpersonal confidence has worsened in the past 20 years. And about half (49%) think a major weight dragging down such trust is that Americans are not as reliable as they used to be.
— Pew Research, 2019
This lack of trust and concern for others, the offensive labeling of opposing groups, and the willingness from some to lie and distort information for their personal gain will continue to spiral our country down this dark path. As antipathy grows, our chances of reunion diminish.
Four years have passed since Pew published this research, both parties are still pulling hard against each other while the American public is trapped. Caught between two apathetic parties who care more about grandstanding and their own success and not the individuals who are so eager to represent them.
The trapdoor beneath our feet swings open. We find ourselves in bottomless free fall. We are lost in a great darkness, and there’s no one to send out a search party. Given so harsh a reality, of course we’re tempted to shut our eyes and pretend that we’re safe and snug at home, that the fall is only a bad dream.
— Carl Sagan
Sagan’s remarks were not about American politics, but its warning aptly fits. Because politicians play care more about their political futures than our actual future, it is up to us, the American people, to find a way past the shouting. If we cannot, I fear for our future and for our children.
What can we do?
Show those around you respect and treat them kindly. Listen to them, Talk — don’t always argue — with them, let them show you what they believe and why. Do not view everyone you see on the street or online as person who must be “educated” or “owned”. Do not look at them as other; rather look on them as companions. Recognize that we all have areas in our lives to better and room to learn. The object should not be a changed mind, but a new friend.
It will not be easy, there are always times where I struggle to bite my tongue. However, if we all work to grow together, the partisan division we face now might one day diminish. Perhaps even returning to a more “acceptable” level for politics.
We look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear — only a common desire to retreat from each other — only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force.
— Robert F. Kennedy