A Divided Nation
Partisanship is defined by Merriam-Webster as “strong and sometimes blind adherence to a particular party, faction, cause, or person”. This “blind adherence” has become a growing issue in the United States. The country has become increasingly divided, turning everything, even a global pandemic, into a political matter. People ignore viewpoints that do not match their own, and, sadly, oppose individuals that do not fit their own idea and/or standards of what they consider to be correct. This has resulted in a dysfunctional political system that seems to ignore compromise, respect, and differing views.
Every idea or action is Republican vs. Democrat, red vs. blue, right vs. left. Congress is increasingly voting along party lines, and the public is much more often voting based on what aligns with their party as opposed to the candidate and/or actual issue. There is decreased deliberation and debate, and individuals seem much more closed-minded and unwilling to negotiate.
One illustration of these somewhat blind actions are the 2016 and 2020 Supreme Court Justice nominations made by former presidents Obama and Trump, respectively. The court vacancies were due to deaths of previous justices within 1 year of the upcoming election.
In 2016, there were 269 days until election vs. 46 days in the 2020 election. In 2016, many Democrats were supportive of voting yes for the nomination while Republicans were against it, even stalling the nomination for so long that it never came to a vote in 2016. However, in 2020, Republicans were strongly in favor of the nomination and Democrats were against it with the vote almost exactly down party lines. This is just one of many such instances of choosing a side that favors the party rather than what a person believes is right, or in this case, actually evaluating the nominee’s merits.
It has not always been this way in the United States; the increase in political polarization, and a decline in cooperation and bipartisanship has accelerated over the last few decades. The 98th congress, Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s, was known for its cooperation despite party differences; while it certainly was not perfect, it was much less partisan. Over time, instances such as these feel more and more like a distant memory as partisanship has only continued to increase. An example of this is the decline in split-ticket voting, which is when a voter’s ballot does not have all votes cast for the same party. The percent of districts in which the victorious congressional candidate was affiliated with one party and the winning president was with the other party increased all throughout the 20th century up until the 1980s. In 1984, districts with split ticket voting were nearly at an all-time high of 43.7%, but beginning in 1988, it had continuously declined to 8% in the 2016 election. This indicates that people have become much more likely to vote based on party connection rather than the individual candidate and/or the issue on the ballot.
Without collaboration, we are often at a stand still and very little is accomplished; there is no compromise, only one side vs. the other. People often do not listen to other points of view, which can lead to confirmation bias, whereby people only interact with like-minded individuals that reaffirm their opinions rather than having an open mind to varying ideas.
As disturbing as this may seem, there is hope; we are a great nation and this can change for the better. Not everyone in politics is automatically partisan, an example being the voting for the aforementioned Supreme Court Justice nominations. There was one Republican who voted “nay” in order to stand for her beliefs, even though she stood against her party. In order to fight these growing divisions, we all need to stand together and be unified in our basic beliefs, be willing to compromise, and believe that we are here to support each other and be stronger together. If voters and our representatives start to look beyond just Republican or Democrat, and focus on solutions and common ground instead of differences and problems, we will start to become a more united country and begin to heal as a nation.