by Lauren Hesse ‘19
The current political climate is one of hyperpartisanship and dissent. Upon examining media coverage of current issues from sources with both left- and rightward slants, I have determined that the only commonality Democrats and Republicans appear to share is a belief that members of the other party are inherently wrong for holding their beliefs. No one seems to be interested in hearing what the other side has to say because they believe their counterparts are at best misguided and at worst “deplorable.”
When did it become okay for a presidential candidate to demean millions of Americans who happen to support her opponent by calling them all sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, and otherwise full of hate by labeling them “a basket of deplorables?” When did it become okay for the president’s response to top Democrats being sent pipe bombs to be lamenting about how all this “bomb stuff” is distracting the media from talking about politics and slowing Republican momentum before the midterm elections? When did it become okay for credible publications to call the alleged pipe bomber a “right-wing kook?” When did it become okay for representatives to simply bypass the proper decorum of even sending “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting and immediately start defending gun rights?
The lack of civility demonstrated along both sides of the aisle is not only abhorrent in that it undermines basic human decency; it also undermines our government’s ability to well, govern. The increasing volatility of political discourse renders us unable to pursue even moderate solutions to universally understood problems. What the majority of Americans think seems to matter less and less in the supposedly representative governing body of Congress.
The agendas of party extremists, those who tend to lean further right or left of the party’s base, seem to be disproportionately prioritized despite public opposition to them. According to a Fox News poll, 83 percent of voters support setting up a system for all illegal immigrants who are currently working in the country to become legal residents and 86 percent favor granting work permits to illegal immigrants under the age of 30 brought here as children provided they pass a background check. Additionally, 79 percent favor granting illegal immigrants who meet the aforementioned requirements U.S. citizenship. Yet, despite the overwhelming support of the American people, Congress has not reached a compromise on immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and President Trump has even tried to end current protections for illegal immigrants brought here as children completely by ending the DACA program.
According to The Hill, 97 percent of Americans agree that there should be background checks conducted on all gun buyers. This should be a very simple piece of legislation for Congress to pass based on the near unanimous support of the public; however, it has still gained no traction. Politicians backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) continue to do everything in their power to block any sort of common sense gun control legislation.
After the midterms, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and some governorships of historically red states like Kansas. However, do not expect much to change in the way of pursuing practical solutions. The new Democratic agenda appears to be to resist Trump at every turn and stall until the 2020 presidential election. The campaign issues these new officials did promise they would tackle like protection for those with preexisting conditions, infrastructure improvement, and common sense gun control will be overshadowed by partisan bickering and gridlock.
Change is not inevitable, but it can happen. It will take time and the concerted grassroots efforts of millions of Americans. If Americans want Congress and the president to tackle the issues that matter most to them, they must first start initiating these changes at a local level by reaching out to their elected officials and holding them accountable.