Divisiveness and Polarization = Politics

August 20, 2021   ·   0 Comments


It seems in today’s world politics are constantly and extremely divisive and polarizing, becoming a global virus.

However, ask yourself: Is it all in my head? Were politics and political leaders always divisively polarizing? Your perception can play a hand in this topic.

It seems politics today has the power to tear families apart, divide co-workers, and destroy friendships. What starts as a simple get together, disintegrates into a screaming contest once politics joins the party.

But why? That’s the difficult question to answer.

As I’ve grown older and paid attention to politics – and definitely since I turned the age to vote – I’ve thought quite a bit on this topic.

You can trace this back to the 1960s and the counterculture movement. Around the world – and especially in the United States – citizens started questioning their governments, how honest they were, how they conducted themselves, and where they stood on their citizens’ best interests. A heated decade with the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, and other social issues, this was the beginning of the modern political polarization we know of.

It began intensifying at the start of this century, with U.S. President George W. Bush, who had in his first term, the highest recorded approval ratings following the 9/11, but one of the lowest in his second with the Great Recession.

Of course, the poster boy of political divisiveness who opened the floodgate is Donald Trump. The ugly debates, the protests following his victory, his whole term it seemed, the messiness of last year’s election; it all culminated with the storming of the Capitol at the beginning of the year.

It seems in today’s world, there are only the extreme ends of the political spectrum, with not much middle room. It’s created this ‘us versus them’ mentality, painting an image that the individual represents the supposed evil group. You’re either with us or against us. Is having just a two-party system not enough? Is four or five too many?

It definitely doesn’t help when fractious policies are pursued that intensify the flames, like Brexit in the United Kingdom.

But it’s more than just the slogans, policies or images. Political polarization severely damages, and threatens to destroy, democracy. Because of this intense hatred, political leaders don’t care about their loyal voters as much as hating their opponents. It leads to a never-ending cycle of undoing everything the past leader did. Trump did it with Obama, Biden’s done something similar. Doug Ford against Kathleen Wynne. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. It impedes real progress and change.

I asked a couple family and friends their thoughts on this subject, and they provided several similar responses, including how one is raised in their environment, social groups, what information to consume and where.

A major factor is definitely social media, a see-through curtain, where anyone can get political. How politicians use it vastly impacts perception. The quantity of information but no gate keeping makes it difficult to determine what’s real or fake, leaving people lost, confused, and susceptible to influence. News outlets that have abandoned the purpose of their existence only makes thing worse by reporting one side of the spectrum. Perhaps politics has become too engrained in every aspect of life and should be separate, knowing when politics should or shouldn’t be involved.

Perhaps time and history play a part. A politician who handled a historical moment might have handled it differently 20 years in the past and be remembered for better or worse. Maybe politics has always been a touchy subject, and leaders always brought some controversy. Looking to the past also plays a part. President Lincoln’s election divided the house, and helped spark the U.S. Civil War. He was controversial in his time, and paid for it with a bullet in the head.

Politics tackles our way of life, which is why there will always be friction. It’s not a pleasant subject to discuss, but we can’t ignore and sweep it under the rug and let it fester.

We all need to work together to deal with this. News outlets; conduct yourself respectfully, report and that’s it. Politicians; do your job for its intent and work for moral reasons. Actions speak louder than words. For voters, ordinary citizens, and the masses; when making a decision at election time, listen to the candidates, not your friends/family. It is your decision. Look past the headline. Gather more information from real, credible sources. Don’t identify yourself by how and who you vote for. 

I try to live by the situation. One election I might vote Conservative, then the next Liberal, or NDP. Whoever or whatever party is currently best. Change is constant, and that goes the same for politics. It shouldn’t be so rigid. Parties and voters should be flexible and adapt.

Be open minded. Understand your thoughts and way of life aren’t the same to others. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing there is one; politics are extremely divisive and polarizing today.

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