The common wisdom is that our nation is horribly split into two political camps. Certainly, many of our broadcasters, pundits, publications and social media serve a steady stream of divisive rhetoric where the other side is derided, demeaned and dehumanized. It appears we are more divided than at any time since the Civil War.
But are we really a cleaved nation with only a tiny group tottering in the middle?
Turns out; the opposite may be true. The largest group in the nation self identifies as neither Republican nor Democrat, but rather as independent. Through 2019, in over a dozen polls Gallup asked Americans about party affiliation, and the polls had consistent results: while Democrats and Republicans equally attract 26% to 30% of Americans, more Americans (38% to 46%) see themselves as independents.
A less fractured America is consistent with a Sept. 24 New York Times article titled “The America That Isn’t Polarized,” where the authors said: “By some measures, around half of the population is either disengaged or has ideologically inconsistent views. Together, 54% of Americans either hold a roughly equal mix of conservative and liberal positions or say they don’t follow the news most of the time, according to an Upshot analysis of 2017 data from Pew Research.”
And despite the virulent rhetoric from both sides – including our political leaders, social media posters and cable news network commentators – Americans want bipartisanship. A September Harvard Harris poll of over 1,000 registered voters found that 75% of registered voters want their elected Member of Congress to work across party lines to solve problems.
After the November 2018 election, there was a glimmer of hope. To get the votes needed to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi accepted several process reforms insisted on by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
But since then, bipartisanship appears gone. This year began with the longest federal government shutdown in our history, a disagreement lengthened by a failure of both parties’ refusal to compromise. Most recently, Speaker Pelosi chose the day our president hosted world leaders in New York at the United Nations to announce a formal impeachment inquiry. President Trump then escalated the vitriol by announcing he no longer recognizes Rep. Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
We have an uncivil president, an increase in hate crimes, restrictions on campus speech and attacks on top government officials as they dine in public restaurants. And there appears to be no legislative movement on critical issues such as immigration, trade, a budget, gun control, the environment, drug pricing or health care. There is a good argument to be made that Congress has been out of session in 2019.
And sadly, the presidential primaries have not been reassuring about the future of our democracy. The Republican machine is choking primary debates to thwart criticism of an obviously flawed president – and a few states even killed their primaries. And while Democratic candidates vigorously debate one another, the substance – to this observer – lacks serious discussion about the costs of promised free benefits. In fact, our most serious issues, such as our longest continuous war and exploding debt, have barely been mentioned by either party’s candidates.
Given this failure in leadership, we must ask ourselves if the existing two parties have been hijacked by extremists and whether they serve us well. And if they don’t serve our national interest, what do we do? Does good citizenship mean voting for the party that most aligns with our beliefs, holding our collective nose and voting for its candidates?
Our answers to these questions – and our actions – are critical to our future and our children’s future.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer technology companies, and a New York Times best-selling author. He is the author of the new book, Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation. His views are his own.
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Have we ever had a President who was not flawed, uncivil? I cannot remember one in recent history. Maybe it is a reflection of an uncivil population, exacerbated by social media, hollywood, parents more interested in being friends with their children and the continuing decline in education
Mr. Shapiro’s “views are his own”, it says, but “Issues & Insights” published him, including his nasty, unnecessary swipes at President Trump as “uncivil” and “obviously flawed.”
Shapiro accuses others of using divisive rhetoric, but he echoes the Left’s obligatory signal of disapproval for our elected President. As a former IBD subscriber who found much common ground with their editorial page, I was ready to bookmark I&I. Now that’s unlikely, and I certainly won’t click on the “tip jar.” Consider this note my “tip.”
Shapiro’s research isn’t all biased: disengaged eligible voters have long been numerous, and as Pew research shows, ideologically inconsistency (e.g. on abortion rights) is more widespread than some conservatives have us believe. So why must Shapiro deface his insights with the reflexive anti-Trumpism of the MSM? And why, if he insists on including the gibes, does I&I even bother to distribute a writer with an agenda (gun control; immigration reform?) more consistent with a swamp lobbyist than that of a thoughtful, Trump-era conservative?
Why would I want to compromise with people that want to shut me up, get me fired or better arrested (to them), take away my rights and my money ???
the reason the silent majority is silent is not because they get hounded by conservatives …
your statement “In fact, our most serious issues, such as our longest continuous war and exploding debt, have barely been mentioned by either party’s candidates.” is nonsense on stilts …
maybe you missed the news ??? President Trump has been shouting from the rooftops about the endless wars and wanted to end them …
#nevertrumpism can’t be cured thru medicine but you should at least try something to reduce it …
As long as the media turns a blind eye to one party’s scandals and has a laser focus on the other party’s “scandals”, and acts as one party’s loudspeaker for their talking points, and libels people like Judge Kavanaugh and the Covington kids, we will never experience civility. When an opposing point of view is labeled racist, homophobic, islamophobic (I can go on forever), there is no starting point for a conversation. This does not even cover half truths, selective editing, and failure to present the opposite view. We all have eyes and ears. Why on earth do you think Trump won in the first place. This will not end well.