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.
Note to Readers: Issues & Insights is a new site launched by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our mission is to use our decades of experience to provide timely, fact-based reporting and deeply informed analysis on the news of the day.
We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we think our approach to commentary is sorely lacking both in today’s mainstream media and on the internet. If you like what you see, feel free to click the Tip Jar over on the right sidebar. And be sure to tell your friends!