You’ve probably noticed it — it’s hard not to. You get on the Internet and see a plethora of hate-filled memes depicting Republicans and conservatives as idiots. Or maybe you’ve shaken your head and wonder why this world is so crazy when listening to your favorite talk radio host. Or maybe you’ve heard the latest decree by President Obama and note that half the country seems to applaud the maneuver, while the other half is horrified. It’s the polarization of America: the separation of liberals and conservatives that will not compromise.
America Is More Polarized Than Ever Before
America has not seen such polarization since the Civil War. This time, the argument isn’t about slavery, the argument is about ideology. The conservative versus liberal arguments have so invaded our culture that it’s likely you would be horrified if one of your children were to marry someone of a different ideology. According to the New York Times, 30 percent of conservatives would be upset if a close relative, say a son or daughter, were to marry a Democrat. Liberals, too, have their problems with conservatives marrying in their ranks — 23 percent would be dreadfully unhappy if a family member married a Republican. What’s more, liberals and conservatives are seeking their own enclaves rather than deal with people of opposite ideologies.
Victories on Both Sides of the Aisle
Both liberals and conservatives have seen victories when it comes to certain key points. The Liberals have seen each Democrat presidential nominee become more liberal with each nomination. Transgender rights, gay marriage, support for illegal immigrants, and other liberal issues have been pushed through, and while it may not always be agreed to, objections are silenced or even tacitly ignored. On the conservative side, Democrats have lost more seats to Republicans than in the mid-70s, there’s been an increase in pro-life legislation, and despite Obama’s executive order, more people support gun rights according to the Pew Research Center. The Republicans are running to Tea Party conservatives when it comes to presidential candidates. These victories on both sides of the aisle illustrate just how divided our country has become.
A Drastic Shift
The Pew Research Center conducted a political survey in 2014. This survey, the largest political survey ever conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that from 1994 to 2014, Americans have shifted their ideologies more to the left or more to the right, depending upon whether they were liberal or conservative. This polarization appears both in lifestyles and personal lives of conservatives and liberals.
To give you an idea of how drastic the shift is, according to the Pew Research Center, the typical Democrat is more liberal than 92 percent of Republicans. By the same token, a typical Republican is now more conservative than 94 percent of Democrats. Some 38 percent of Democrats look on Republicans very unfavorably and 27 percent consider Republicans as a threat to the country. A large percentage of Republicans (43 percent) looked on Democrats very unfavorably, and 36 percent look at Democrats as being a threat to the country as well. In 1994, only 16 percent of the Democrats looked on Republicans as being bad, and only 17 percent of Republicans looked at Democrats as being bad.
Why So Polarized?
The question of why and how our country got so polarized is complex. The Atlantic states that Americans have become polarized due to education and choices of whom we associate with. In terms of education, the more educated you are, the more likely you’re going to be more polarized. If you are a highly educated conservative, you are going to become even more conservative. If you are highly educated liberal, you will become even more liberal. What’s more, if you are college educated, you may have moved to another state within five years after you graduated (45 percent). That move may have also put you in a place where you could find people who share your ideology. If you’re conservative, you tend to marry a conservative. If you’re a liberal, you tend to marry a liberal. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
The Washington Post splits out the reasons even further. With politicians polarizing, the American people also polarize, but that leads us with the chicken and the egg argument. Were the American people polarized enough to create polarized politicians, or vice versa?
Other reasons which have to be considered is the change of where people get their news and the Internet. We’ve all seen how groups both liberal and conservative have voices on the Internet, and people who would normally not be heard are suddenly brought to the forefront. This is been a two edge sword in the fact that it has allowed people and issues to be brought forth, but at the same time it allows anyone with a computer to say anything.
Another interesting point that the Washington Post brings up is the fall of the Soviet Union. Without the common enemy, the Soviet Union, there is less to unify all the various factions within the United States. Terrorist threats have only deepened the divides due to arguments over how the United States should handle these threats.
One thing is for certain, with this election year we’re bound to see even more polarization as we head toward November.