Political polarisation gnaws at American democracy from within as mutual intolerance has drastically increased in the United States.
More troubling was that these political disputes had translated into personal vitriol, not only towards the politicians across the aisle but also with fellow citizens who voted differently. While 70 percent of Democrats found Republicans to be “close-minded,” nearly 50 percent of Republicans found the former to be “lazy,” “immoral,” or “dishonest.” This shrinking middle ground was manifesting itself locally: “Of the nation’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), just 303 were decided by single-digit margins—less than 10 percent. In contrast, 1,096 counties fit that description in 1992.” This change confirmed that “America’s political fabric, geographically, was tearing apart.” Moreover, this bias had bled over into traditionally non-political arenas as well, such as students’ choice of roommates. It was not disagreement; it was mutual intolerance.
Consistently close elections in a two-party system is a strong indicator of increased division, as it suggests that the electorate is unable to reach consensus or is largely unable to be swayed towards those of opposite political affiliation.
Originalism, an ideology generally adhered to by conservative Supreme Court judges, is the idea that a text in law, the US Constitution here, should be interpreted and followed as it was intended to be followed at the time it was introduced. In this case, the tradition was largely established by people who did not care for widespread democracy. The electoral college was conceived as “a kind of review board, a group of elite lawmakers and men of property would elect the president, rejecting the people’s choice if necessary, to avoid the ‘excesses of democracy.”
The electoral college was conceived as “a kind of review board, a group of elite lawmakers and men of property would elect the president, rejecting the people’s choice if necessary, to avoid the ‘excesses of democracy.”
At the moment, Democrats champion the populous areas while Republicans champion the less populous ones. Over time, who the parties represent may change, as has happened in the past. However, what has not changed is that those in more populous areas are afforded fewer rights as individuals than those who live in less populous ones. Additionally, as long as they have been afforded the rights of citizenship, minorities have disproportionately occupied populous land, while white people have disproportionately occupied less populous land. As demographic shifts increase the influence of the largely non-white-backed Democratic Party, the Republican Party, “increasingly seeing the appeal of minority rule,” has, with the approval of their disproportionately white voter base, used “their institutional leg up to try and take steps—such a s enacting voting restrictions, but also attempting to undermine the results of popular elections—that entrench their advantage even more solidly.” Ultimately, one side has learnt that they can win and keep power without engaging with the majority of the country; the other side, understandably, views their rivals as an existential threat to democracy itself. So why is America polarised? It is because it has little incentive not to be. Today, questioning the significance of democracy has become mainstream. However, a successful defence of democracy for those in more populated areas and, for now, the Democratic Party necessitates understanding the reality on the ground. The only way Democrats can win power to enact meaningful change is by achieving a broad consensus, and to achieve that, they will require understanding, patience, and empathy. More importantly, they will require a willingness to engage with the population beyond their voter base rather than gatekeep and dismiss. While democracy is not infallible, history is witness to it being the most reliable form of global governance. As Winston Churchill once famously said, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
The only way Democrats can win power to enact meaningful change is by achieving a broad consensus, and to achieve that, they will require understanding, patience, and empathy.
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Karun Sagar is a multi-media creator who recently graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently working in the New York State education system.Read More +