The political polarization is dividing America; people no longer merely disagree with each other but actually hate those those who are on the other side of the political spectrum.
Why has the political discourse become so poorly fragmented? When did it start? Did the 2016 election set off an emotional fury that’s just down spiralling? Trump “deplorables”, a degrading term coined by Hilary Clinton to describe Trump’s supporter base, were chanting “Lock her up!” wearing their ‘Hillary for Prison’-shirts and their ‘Make America Great Again’-hats, and on the other side Hilary using every derogatory adjective in the English language to slander Trump and his supporters calling them racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic.
Ratcheting up voter anger might increase political engagement and voter turnout but it has steered us into a path of irreversible division. Both parties rely on inflammatory rhetoric and count on their base to separate themselves into hugely polarised groups – and it’s working. There’s no possibility of public discourse anymore and the idea of humiliating your opposition is becoming as satisfactory as passing legislation.
Political polarisation is focused on creating a collective identities and in doing so it’s effectively creating an opposition. If there’s an “us” there can only be a “them”. People aren’t welcoming disagreements anymore because everything is so tangled up in fundamental philosophical principles such as moral justice that it becomes virtually impossible.
So what is currently feeding the polarization? Cable news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have become so focused on commenting that only half of the programs now include actual reporting of the news and Americans can’t really distinguish fact from opinion. Social media and internet sites have made it so easy to just seek out bipartisan sources that people agree with and share it mindlessly with others without fact checking.
The problem is we are so over saturated with information, on good and bad, that the responsibility is falling on the average citizen to seek the truth on their own and check the veracity of the information they receive. The hope is that they do because as we all know and have seen, people are better attuned to the biases in their preferred news sources than to the biases in unfamiliar news sources. The “eco-chamber” vacuum pitting everyone against each other has destroyed any chance of healthy political discourse. And only when the debate is healthy again, can we begin to think of healing the democracy.