Our political culture is crumbling

Jonah Hofmeyer—Staff Writer 

In the 2020 election, 90 percent of Biden supporters said if Trump was reelected, it would lead to lasting harm to the United States; 89 percent of Trump voters said if Biden was elected, it would lead to lasting harm to the United States, according to Pew Research Center. 

The political divide within the United States cannot be ignored. In today’s information-heavy world, people approach politics in an unhealthy, unproductive manner. With the midterm elections coming up, this political divide is in plain view. Why are we seeing a political divide, and what should be done about it? 

The spread of information is a huge factor in political division in the United States. With a click of a button, people can share information more quickly than ever before. According to Pew Research Center, 8 of 10 people get their news digitally. Over 50 percent of that comes from social media platforms. Social media is a viable way to learn about news and current events, but it is also a tailored experience for individual users. This makes it way too easy to enter “echo chambers.” Users see only the news the algorithm thinks they will enjoy. 

This leads to another factor: the news media itself. Both parties’ confidence in news media is at an all-time low, but this stat is particularly a standout for Republicans, according to Gallup. Since the 2016 election, Republican confidence in the media has been decreasing at an alarming rate. According to the Knight Foundation, 83 percent of Americans say the media has “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of bias. On top of this, 80 percent of Americans believe this bias is intentional. 

Another huge issue with politics today is the dehumanization of the opposite political party. No matter who you watch, there always seems to be an attempt to dehumanize the opponent. Democrats use words like ‘racist,’ ‘bigots,’ ‘sexists,’ ‘homophobes, or ‘white supremacist,’ to describe Republicans. Meanwhile, Republicans call Democrats ‘stupid,’ ‘socialists,’ ‘misinformed,’ ‘ignorant,’ ‘hypocrites,’ and ‘liars.’ When you dehumanize someone, it’s way easier to justify taking them down. The goal in politics today seems to be to destroy your opponent, not just beat them. 

The biggest issues causing political division in the United States are the quick spread of information, news bias, and political dehumanization. With midterm elections coming up, what needs to happen? What can we, as a campus in small-town of Northwest Iowa, do to help solve the problem instead of further it? 

Let’s start with the obvious: don’t dehumanize the opposite political party. It is completely reasonable for someone to come to a different conclusion than you. Everyone was raised differently, and different life experiences lead to different conclusions. That doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. There are just different areas of focus. 

Take immigration for example. A Republican would believe we need to tighten border security. A Democrat would say we need to make the immigration processes more open. These beliefs can be true, and a solution can be found to meet both beliefs, but no one can reach a conclusion if each party is focused on destroying the other’s reputation. 

The next solution is to get out of your own echo chamber. If you’re inclined to believe only what you want to believe, you are in an echo chamber. Just because someone you like says something doesn’t make it true. I’m sure people are sick of hearing this, but you have to do your own research. It’s easy to manipulate data to fit an argument. We live in an era where truth is not going to be handed to you on a silver platter: you must take matters into your own hands. 

Having conversations among your trusted friends is a great first step into the world of politics. Another good step is to make friends across the political aisle. If you are close friends with someone of the opposite party, it is harder to dehumanize them and their beliefs. 

My final solution for you is to consume media you may disagree with. Democrats: watch Fox News and Steven Crowder, read the New York Post. Republicans, watch CNN and Trevor Noah, read the New York Times. Reading or watching something you disagree with may change your mind on some issues and allow you to understand the logic or worldview from which the ‘other side’ is approaching an issue. It may confirm beliefs you already hold and make you more passionate about them. Whatever the result, don’t be part of the problem of political division. Be a part of the solution. 

Contributed photo 

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