Midterm Elections and Political Polarization

Mohona Chowdhury '17 Contributing Writer

The midterm election on Nov. 4 was tragic – but not because of the outcome. The Republican Party won in a landslide and took control of Congress. Even though the GOP “won” the elections, there was no true winner. The elections were a representation of the country’s disapproval of the Obama administration and Washington as a whole.

The midterms were dubbed as the “who cares” election since the voter turnout was horrendous; about 34% of registered voters cast a ballot. Typically, the election is a representation of how good of a job the President is doing. Leaders in both parties used Obama as a scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong. Many campaign advertisements did not bash the opposing candidates – they targeted Obama. There were a variety of campaign advertisements that bordered on the ridiculous, from a man shooting down an “Obama drone” with his rifle, to a female candidate who focused on her childhood experience castrating hogs and how that could be applied to cutting the budget and overturning Obamacare. The arguments voiced by Republican and Democrat candidates were harsh and polarizing. Most candidates failed to express, in their campaigns, a desire to compromise with the other party.

The United States is now more polarized than it has ever been in recent history. Republicans and Democrats share incredibly negative views of those in the opposing party, leading to partisan antipathy. Because of this, there is now a greater chance of gridlock and less opportunity for meaningful compromise. The voices we hear in the media and all around us are those who hold the most extreme political opinions. This polarization is creating a politically divided society. Liberals and conservatives prefer to live and socialize with those of the same ideologies. According to Pew Center research, it was found that 23% of liberals would be unhappy if a family member married a conservative, and 30% of conservatives would be unhappy if a relative married a Democrat. It additionally shows that 27% of liberals would be unhappy if a family member married a born-again Christian while 23% of conservatives would be unhappy if a close relative married someone of a different race. Conservatives tend to want to live in areas where people share their religious and racial identity, while liberals prefer diversity. This polarization is causing higher instances of racism and religious discrimination, not just more extreme political parties.

The polarization of the country will only increase the number of disenchanted voters. Both parties view members of the opposing party as a threat to the well-being of the nation and will not be able to reach a compromise.