Who is Responsible for Political Polarization?

March 24, 2016

Republicans are to blame. They refuse to compromise.

Allison Hellman

In a fit of rage at the Republican party, my friend declared “I don’t even understand why they let conservatives into this school.” Her statement was obviously shocking, not only for the simple reason that she thought a high school, albeit a liberal one, should reject all people right of center on the political spectrum, but more importantly because it raised the question of what the Republicans had done to incite such a strong response. However, it is true that members of the public are becoming more partisan in their views and the Republican leadership in Congress, as well as right leaning news outlets, are encouraging them. Their emphasis on rejecting com- promise forces conservative voters to the right and gives liberal voters the impression that conservatives are wrong in their ideas.

According to the Pew Research Center, both parties have shifted away from the center. In the last twenty years, the percentage of Americans who consistently hold either conservative or liberal views has increased from 10% to 21%. However, this is not the only reason why Americans have become more polarized. In the last twenty years there has been an increase in Americans who view members of the other party as “a threat to the nation”, echoing the sentiment about conservatives my friend had. 36% of Republicans and 27% of Democrats would also agree the above statement applies to the other party. The Pew Research Center goes on to show even more metrics of polarization, showing that strong conservatives and liberals don’t even want to live in the same communities with people who have different views than them.

The blame for this divide can be placed squarely at the feet of Republican Congressional attitudes and far-right media such as Fox News. The rhetoric of the Congress Republicans in recent years has been heavily focused on standing on principle and not compromising. It has also been focused on dismantling President Obama’s ideas and attacking his legitimacy. One of the worst examples of this was when Republican senators used a government shutdown as a political tool. In 2013, the government shut down because Republicans would not agree to the provisions in Obamacare and so no financial plan was passed. Senator Ted Cruz, who recently won the 2016 Iowa Caucus, has said that “Republicans need to actu- ally do what we say we’ll do. It was not a mistake for Republicans to stand up and fight Obamacare.” In the same interview, he also supported a plan to force another government shutdown over Obama’s views on immigration.

The other culprits responsible for increased polarization are the far right media. Their shows and websites have suggested that Obama is not American, but a Muslim and a dictator. The so-called “birther” views persisted throughout Obama’s entire first term as president, coming up as an election issue in 2012. Additionally, 14 Republican congressmen voiced doubt over Obama’s right to be president because of his alleged place of birth. Talk show host Michael Savage proclaimed that Obama was a Muslim, while Insight on the News claimed he secretly studied at a madrassa in Indonesia. Fox News, the most mainstream of these sources, consistently shares quotes claiming Obama is a dictator, such as the statement made by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre early in 2015.

The point of the examples above is to show how Republicans, in the public eye, are creating an extreme view of the party as a whole. This is a large cause of the increased partisanship in America today. Republicans who see these statements and attitudes, especially if it’s their only source of political news, are more likely to shift right to agree with their elected officials and media to fit what they now see as the standard “conservative” mold. Democrats who see a refusal to compromise and distrust of a Democratic president from prominent conservatives are likely to think that all conservatives have views like this. This causes them to believe that the Republicans are both crazy and against Democrats, so they shift as far away from the them as possible.

This is not to say that the Democrats are blameless, nor that all Republicans share the view of the individuals above. The Democrats in Congress absolutely create deals that Republicans will never sign, forcing them to stand on principle. The difference is that the Democratic establishment does not have a ‘refusal to compromise’ as part of the message it sends to the public. Left-leaning news outlets never circulated a numerous amount of rumors that questioned the legitimacy of say, George W. Bush. Again, it is also true that not all Republicans have extreme views, but a lot of the ones in the spotlight do, while ones with more moderate views, like John Kasich, are cast aside. The vast group of moderate conservatives, who I fully believe exist, is encouraged to mirror their most visible leaders and shift right, causing liberals, like my high school friend, to put all conservatives together into a group they consider so repulsive that they believe they are a threat to our nation.

Allison Hellman is a freshman in the LSA Honors Program and the Residential College at the University of Michigan. She is from Woodbridge, Connecticut and plans on majoring in Biology. Allison is the Party Leader of the Left in the Michigan Political Union and an active member of the Michigan Running Club and Michigan Triathlon Club.

Democrats are to blame. They divide the people.

William Presley

It’s sweeping across college campuses like wildfire, infecting many and causing annoyance and inflammation wherever it’s found. No, I’m not talking about Gonorrhea, but rather political correctness (though for the life of me I can’t tell you which I’d rather deal with). Everywhere, so-called social justice warriors, armed with wagging fingers and stylish fedoras, throw tantrums in the name of language policing. They often find themselves the target of immense anger, which is understandable given that their movement is, on the surface, an attempt to stifle free speech so that big, bad reality can’t hurt the feelings of a few ‘special snowflakes’ among us. However, upon deeper reflection, it becomes clear that they are deserving also of sympathy, as they are merely tools used by the Democratic establishment to quiet those who threaten to expose their true agenda: divide and conquer.

Indeed, anytime an issue has arisen that threatens to create a barrier between two large groups of the population, the Democrats have taken the opportunity, not to act as a unifying force, but to create a bigger wedge. When Michael Brown was killed during an attempted assault on a police officer, for instance, racially-charged riots ensued. Instead of using his position as a platform to condemn the attack that led to the fatal shot and urge the rioters to behave like members of civilized society, President Obama added fuel to the fire by sending three aids to the Brown funeral to be seen alongside professional race-baiter Al Sharpton.

Still, such actions are not uncommon from our current president. This is a man known to stand on the graves of dead children to push his gun control agenda and angrily brand those who dissent as ‘bitter clingers’ when he doesn’t get what he wants. But then again, how does that old saying go? If at first you don’t succeed… try again? No, that’s not it. How about if at first you don’t succeed, play Americans against each other to the point of political chaos? There we go, that sounds about right.

Of course, I’m not being entirely fair here. By focusing only on Obama, I don’t give his fellow leading Democrats enough credit for their efforts to divide Americans. Take for example the matter of the ‘gender pay gap.’ The idea itself is a complete fallacy based on a politically charged, scientifically inaccurate study that isn’t recognized by a single credible economist. The only reason that the term hasn’t completely vanished from our vernacular at this point is that it has been seized upon by individuals like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, one of whom will be the Democratic nominee (or indicted), to perpetuate the existence of the ‘war on women.’ Now, you’re not going to convince me that either of the aforementioned candidates are stupid… no common idiot could make it as far as they have. That leaves only one plausible explanation as to why they would continue

to spout off on a fantasy as ridiculous as their imagined war: they wish to turn women into purple-haired adversaries of the fictitious patriarchy. In other words, their goal is to create contention between women and men.

These are just a few cases off of an innumerable list that illustrate the Democrats’ proclivity for division. Whether it be over a necessary solution to an eminent problem or a sound bite taken out of context, the Left seems to possess a special talent for dividing Americans into groups, labeling some, usually their political opponents, as ‘oppressors’ and others, usually minorities and women, as ‘oppressed.’ It is then that they, the white knights, may swoop in and rescue all of society’s ‘victims’ from the clutches of those evil Republicans… for the price of a vote, that is. And what happens when we Republicans catch on? What happens when one among our ranks stops playing the game and threatens to reveal their tactics? The politically correct drones are deployed to silence them with shouts of “Racism! Sexism!”

Albeit funny that the party who gave us Robert “Sheets” Byrd and Bill “Slick Willy” Clinton should suddenly pretend to care about either, this cannot continue. The growing chasms Leftists are creating among Americans are feeding an ideological firestorm that translates into partisan gridlock in Washington. Democrats won’t reach across the aisle, as that would be seen as a betrayal of the ‘victims’ they represent, and Republicans can’t without making those who have been unfairly demonized by Liberals feel like they’ve been left out in the cold. This has been a reality for far too long, and until it’s stopped, we are rendered unable to advance as a country.

William Presley is currently a freshman at the university with plans to continue on a pre-med track, majoring in biomolecular science. To date, he has published two novellas, A Letter from Hell and Blissful Insanity, as well as a short story due to appear in an anthology this coming spring.