Battling Polarization

Democratic donkey and Republican elephant butting heads. Vector illustration.

The root of polarization is identity politics, which is the tendency of people with a particular racial, religious, ethnic, or cultural identity to promote their own interests over the needs of other groups. As author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations Amy Chua puts it, identity politics is the force that pushes people to vote with their group, not with their minds. It is the push that makes Americans subconsciously “close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them”. The more one group is threatened, hurt, or punished by another, the further the people of that group pull into each other and their beliefs– thus drawing themselves further from people in opposing groups. Today, similar to the past, black Americans feel as though they are under threat from white Americans. Muslim Americans fear religion-based discrimination. Latin Americans worry about being dehumanized in the media, and possibly even having a loved one deported. Some women in America are concerned that sexism will once again run rampant in the name of anti-political correctness. LGBTQ Americans are scared of the hard-won legal rights they’ve won being taken away by a conservative Supreme Court (Chua). Their response? Retreating further into their respective groups, the effect being a nation divided. 

The only possible next step is to bridge the divide. As Americans, it is imperative to come together, whether it be by not leaving the Senate floor until a resolution is made, or by simply getting to know each other, Democrats and Republicans must find a way to move forward. Remaining angered with one another will only lead to a harsher downfall. The divisions created by polarization must be forgotten. The differences between the parties do not need to result in separations between people; instead, they should result in thoughtful conversations and true understanding. The best way to close the gap between both parties is through getting to know one another– not as Democrats and Republicans, but as people who share a common identity: American.