The United States is Becoming Increasingly Polarized Politically


Political parties have always been at each other’s throats but it seemed there was always a sense of moderation and crossover between Democrats and Republicans. In the last few years, it feels as though that crossover is gone and the two parties can never work together. (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

If you have turned on the TV during election season, you’re bound to see a political attack ad. After a slew of ads appear on the airwaves, a trend emerges. Republicans call Democrats socialists, and Democrats call Republicans far-right Trumpers. Do these attack ads hold some truth though?

In today’s politics, you barely see any moderation in the Republican party. It’s ride or die with Trump and congressional Republicans. Political spectators have repeatedly seen what happens when a member of the GOP defies Trump. Justin Amash (I-MI) abandoned the Republican Party after being cut off for supporting impeachment. Immediately after Mark Amodei (R-NV) said he was open to starting an investigation into Trump, conservatives from all over called for him to face a primary challenger. After Democrats won the House in 2018, President Trump smeared the Republicans who lost, saying they would have won if they had “embraced” him more. 

This trend isn’t going to stop after Trump is gone, and Republicans in Congress know this all too well. 

“Long story short, even after Trump leaves office, he’s shaking the party so bad. We’re seeing all these Republicans retire now, especially the vulnerable congressional ones, they’re all being replaced by people like Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows,” said Miles Coleman, an associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, in a phone interview with The Mycenaean

So far, twenty house Republicans have retired from Congress, six of who represent competitive suburban districts. These retiring GOP representatives are seeing the writing on the wall: They know that Trump style Republicanism is making them extremely vulnerable and would rather retire than face tough, expensive races which they could likely lose. 

Coleman mentioned two politicians who are going to be responsible for the continuation of this trend. They are Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC). Jordan and Meadows are two key leaders in the House Freedom Caucus, a group of Republicans who are President Trump’s biggest supporters and defenders. While there are seven competitive districts with retiring Republican incumbents, there are still sixteen districts that are very likely to stay in GOP hands. The Republicans retiring from these districts are not as far right, or as big of fans of Trump, as members of the Freedom Caucus. But what kind of candidates are National Republican Congressional Committee going to find to replace them? More far right Trump sycophants. 

Democrats are facing some of the same issues though. While they’re golden on diversity of candidates, there’s a huge rift in the party between progressives and centrists. When the House voted on opening an impeachment investigation into President Trump, only two Democrats voted against it — Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Representative Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), respectively. Peterson’s district gave Trump 61.8 percent of the vote in 2016 and Trump won Van Drew’s district by four percent, a red trending southern Jersey district. Like Amash and Amodei, the moment these two congressmen voted no, calls for them to face primary challenges echoed loud throughout far left progressives. It’s almost as though these progressives either don’t know or don’t care that these men represent tough Trump districts, they’d rather have Republicans holding swing districts than moderate Democrats.

Progressives are also causing a headache for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The DCCC’s main jobs are to raise money, build campaigns to flip districts, and protect incumbents. In 2018, the DCCC was overall successful by running enough good campaigns to flip the House in favor of Democrats, but some bad candidates thwarted the DCCC’s efforts to flip vulnerable districts.

While some Democratic candidates appealed to voters and won their races on election night, others fell flat. The candidate most people point to when talking about progressive losses in Kara Eastman. Eastman ran in the Omaha based Nebraska’s second congressional district against freshman Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE). Eastman advanced to the general election after beating former Representative Brad Ashford (D-NE) in the primary. She has advocated for Medicare for All, debt-free college, and raising the minimum wage. The progressive organization Justice Democrats who are most known for helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) win her primary, had also endorsed her. Eastman lost this race by two percentage points in 2018, many political analysts say she lost because her progressive views don’t resonate well with swing voters. 

That’s a major thorn in the side of the Democratic establishment. Not only are they having to pour millions of dollars into the general election, they’re also having to make sure the right candidate wins the primary, but the damage is already done even if progressive candidates don’t win. Republican operatives take progressive ideals and use them to paint all Democrats with the same “socialist” brush. Republicans know that they can use people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as boogeymen, tying them even the most moderate Democrat to try and scare away swing voters. 

Both parties are facing a major problem of candidates moving too far left and right. If this drift to the furthest ends of the political spectrum continues, then the nation will continue to become increasingly polarized. Two parties that are so far apart from one another and don’t accurately represent their constituents will only cause more political strife. We can’t demonize centrists and moderation–they’re keeping bipartisanship alive. Just because you don’t like how they vote on a certain piece of legislation doesn’t mean you can threaten to kick them out of office simply for accurately representing their district.


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