The Hilltopper

Politics Dividing America

Ella Exterkamp, Staff

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Political parties are what divide our nation.


In the past they used to be what brought our nation together. They fostered healthy debates about politics, the economy, and education.


Now, parties are the wedge that is forcing the carefully crafted foundation of America apart so forcefully, that there is little hope of the nation coming together again.


This divide has always been a part of American politics, but the extent of hatred has evolved into a sense of instinctual tribalism that politicians are bringing out of us.


Intentionally or not, modern political parties have formed around not their own ideas, but the hatred for the opposing view.


Think about it. Chances are you don’t agree with everything the party you identify with believes in, but god forbid you support an idea the opposing party agrees with. Why is that?


The parties of America are not based around politics any longer, they focus on opposing the opposite party.


They are not advocating for achievable laws, they are creating a culture of us versus them.


This culture of us versus them is the core definition of tribalism. The definition of political tribalism from is, “a strong cultural or ethnic identity that separates one member of a group from the members of another group.”


Democrats vs Republicans, Fox vs CNN, Trump vs Hillary, Blacks vs Whites. These are institutions. These are not policies or ideas, but groups. These are tribes.


People do not want to agree with the opposite party because politicians have made Americans believe those people are disgusting, that they are evil.


Does it ever cross your mind how the Holocaust happened? How could they be so loyal, so hateful, so blind? In recent elections, however, I believe we see our own version of the forces that drove the Nazis to do such horrendous things.


Before you run at me with pitchforks, understand that I am not comparing anyone’s actions to the horrendous actions of the Nazi regime, but I am comparing their political climate and tribalism to our own.


We grow up teaching our children that the people we do not completely agree with are the enemy. One study by Florida State’s Douglas J. Ahler states, “The idea of a family member marrying someone from the wrong party leaves about a third of Americans feeling ‘aghast.’


The people not the “same” as us, are the people many cannot associate themselves with. This should sound hauntingly similar to how many wars started such as in 20th century Germany.


Unlike Germany, however, our country is not plagued by an economic depression, but nobody can say that couldn’t change. What is stopping this feeling of tribalism from pinning the blame on “the enemy?”


In light of the recent midterm election with the Republicans continuing to maintain their majority over the Democrat’s in the Senate, the political ads seemed to run every other commercial these past few weeks.


Many of these ads claim crazy things about the person they are running against. Many approach complete slander about another candidate.


The problems in our country are easily observable, however, the road to mending the broken foundation of America may not be so easy. There is little that the common man can do about the hatred between organizations and the political/racial violence.


However, there is something that every American can do right now.


Stop taking the individual out of the institution.


We are all separate people with lives, families, ideas, and ethnicities. We cling so tightly to the stereotypes of the other side because we are so unable to listen. It is not betrayal to have ideas that align with the other party. Because that is all they are, ideas.


It is easier to ignore where other people are coming from; it is much harder to listen. It is hard to understand that not every Democrat is part of a radical liberalist group and not every Republican is a Neo-Nazi. Understanding that not every white person is racist and not every black person is a criminal.


These seem obvious to most, and they should be, but in politics, people are stripped of their individuality and clumped into broad groups.


This tribalism we see today, I believe, is what has caused hate crimes in the nation’s 10 largest cities to increase by 12 percent last year.


Tribalism starts with you, and with every person stuck in the mindset that America is being threatened from the inside. It is that mindset that is causing the real problem.


As Andre Sullivan stated, “Tribalism was an urge our Founding Fathers, especially George Washington, assumed we could overcome. And so, it has become our greatest vulnerability.”


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2 Responses to “Politics Dividing America”

  1. Sarah Cayton on November 14th, 2018 11:08 am

    I have a couple things to say.

    First, I have a question. When has America ever not been divided? Political parties have existed since before the Constitution, with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was one of the most politically charged in US history, and that happened in 1800. Only 61 years later was the Civil War- by far the time in which America was the most divided. Even after this war ended, arguments occurred between the North and South about how to deal with the racism that plagued society. White citizens were unwilling and unable to accept the basic humanity of black people, which lead to Jim Crow laws after Reconstruction in the South failed. America’s history is drenched in division, which isn’t to say that this is good or honorable, but this is not solely a modern issue.

    Second, I disagree with the notion that negative campaign ads are slander. Slander, as a legal term, constitutes lying about an opponent in a way that is incredibly damaging to their reputation. These ads paint the opponent in a negative light, as is the purpose of them, but they aren’t lying. Exaggerated, yes. But slanderous, no. Does that mean that they are still good? Not particularly. The merit of something is not based only on the fact that it is legal, but we have to call them what they actually are. The history of negative campaign ads is as old as the nation, but obviously they have grown with the use of television. The so-called “Daisy Girl Ad,” which was run under Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign, it usually seen as the start of this trend. This was an ad in which a girl is peeling petals off a flower, counting down, until a nuclear bomb is set off. Calling people out for their negative aspects certainly seems much less extreme than this. Again, I do not believe that politicians should run on the platform that they are simply less terrible than their opponent, but these types of ads also hold the opponent accountable for their previous actions.

    Third, I agree with you that people must be willing to listen to the other side. This is essential for the nation to uphold the ideas and principles that will allow us to be successful. But not all opinions are equal, and they should not be treated as though they are. When one side is arguing for hatred and distrust of ethnic or religious groups and promoting the mistreatment of groups based on sex or sexual identity, why do these opinions need to be held as valid? As I stated before, America’s history is written in pain and division, and some ideas promote this division further. I’m not claiming that only 1 idea or point of view is correct, but some points of view are in fact dangerous. Let’s take, for example, what you stated earlier about Hitler and the Nazi Regime. Yes, there was a clear and obvious division in Germany, but who is to blame for that division? Are Jews responsible for their existence? Or are Hitler and his lackeys responsible for promoting this ideology? The answer is clear. So is tribalism to blame for extremist ideas, or are extremists to blame for creating tribes? I believe it to be the latter.

    People who oppose ideas are not responsible for the creation of so-called tribes. And I agree that the loss of both moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans is an issue, but it is an issue that does not rest equally on either side. And both parties are further divided within themselves, most obviously the divisions in the GOP- with old fashioned conservatives on one side, and the new “Party of Trump” on the other side. This isn’ to say Democrats are not divided- they are- but the division is more subtle because the party lacks a clear message.

    So what is there to be done about this? I believe the answer lies in education as opposed to expecting individual citizens to take responsibility for an issue that they did not create. If people’s political beliefs are based on facts instead of opinions, and humanity instead of selfishness, the world will be in a much better place. People need to be educated on how to have a healthy debate, and that changing their mind isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign flexibility. Compassion between all people should be fostered, but that does not lie in dismantling opposing beliefs. This is inevitably a part of living in a nation as large and diverse as the United States. But for bridges to be crossed and compromises to be made, we need to not only be aware of the issue, but know the solution is much bigger than any one individual.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  2. Hailey Barnes on November 14th, 2018 11:10 am

    I feel that it is unfair and insensitive to compare standing with a political party to Germans following the Nazi regime. I agree with most of your points but find it incredibly inappropriate to reference the Holocaust when referring to political parties. You say, how could people involved in the holocaust be so loyal, hateful and blind and that you see us following the same forces that led to the Nazi rise. Our political parties are incredibly polarized, it leads to more hate and division but this is nowhere near the Holocaust. Most Republicans and Democrats vote for what they vote for because they believe their choices fall in line with their personal morals. Both parties generally base their choices off of morals and ethics, not hate towards others but rather the desire to do what is right in their own eyes. The Nazi party was a group of power hungry and anti-semitic individuals, not those fighting for personal ethics but rather for genocide. I also think your claim that America has a “black vs. whites” tribe or institution and then claiming that they aren’t based off of policies or ideas is just as blind and insensitive as the groups you are referencing. Minorities fighting for their rights is not them falling along with the propaganda and pressure that comes from the rest of their group, it is them fighting for the end of their suppression. Minorities are fighting for their individual rights and this fight IS based off of ideas, ideas of equality and freedom so for you to compare the movement of “blacks vs. whites” AKA “minorities vs. their oppression” to the Nazi movement and ideas of falling in line with anything that those around you do is incorrect. I understand that you are also talking about how some whites do the exact same thing, they fall in line with what they are told to be true by others leading to racism and yes this is obviously wrong, however grouping black or minority movements into this context negatively seems inappropriate to me.

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Politics Dividing America