It’s hard to believe that in two days, the decision will be made for who will be our next President. Staying away from the political discourse this time around has almost been impossible, particularly thanks to our social networking and hyperactive news outlets. My mind has been critiquing all sides of the political spectrum during this race and I’ve finally been able to compose my thoughts into a few paragraphs. My opinions and conclusions are not intended to make light of the political issues at stake, nor am I attempting to condemn anyone’s stance, regardless of political affiliation. I am trying to separate myself from the entire political arena to make sense of the scenario. Here are some of my thoughts:
This election has created an even more enormous schism between those who find themselves on the left and the right – even among those of the same party. The polemical nature of 2016’s race is dangerous. Those who have identified themselves as being outspoken in this race are being pushed to an even more isolated position, breeding a larger base of support for reactionary political movements that are reappearing globally and will likely gain more footing in American politics if this tendency continues. From what I’ve seen on social media, everyone feels that they are fighting the good fight against their evil opponent. It of course is natural to have a certain sense of loyalty to one’s own side, but the sheer number of posts I’ve encountered of people – from at-home bloggers to superstars – pleading with voters to vote for the values of their candidate makes me take a step back and worry about the gridlock that is sure to follow, regardless of who ultimately wins the election.
Stepping away from the topics surrounding our decision this year – we as a whole have gotten to the point of not wanting to hear one side or the other. Most of our minds were firmly made up months ago – and yes, often with good reason. We follow media sources and friends with our own political leanings and completely isolate the opposite side. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting tool called “Blue Feed, Red Feed” that allows you to see the differences between conservative Facebook and liberal Facebook side by side. What we see online hardly ever crosses into the opponent’s camp. I’ve come across a handful of posts throughout the election of those proudly claiming that they had unfriended anyone whose political beliefs were contrary to their own or who were supporting the “wrong” candidate. It may be satisfying in practice, but these acts simply solidify the stance another has taken in their own mind as being right. This helps feed political extremism. The other person will see the unfriending as intolerance and will become even more steadfast about the opinions the unfriender found to be upsetting.
2016 has proven itself to be a year of surprises. But what happens after November 8th? Where do we go from here? Can we actually have either side step back gracefully to let our new President lead? Trump supporters lack confidence in Hillary, and Hillary supporters are outraged by Trump. Bernie supporters are upset with Hillary, are in diametric opposition to Trump, and often feel obliged to vote for Hillary out of party loyalty or may decide to vote for Stein since her values align closely with progressive leftist politics. Republicans who supported other candidates such as Kasich or Cruz may feel ashamed by their candidate and may consider giving their vote to Johnson. Some may vote party lines or cross party lines for the first time.
Who wins? It’s hard to say. This election has re-hashed the deep-rooted divisions between the multiple layers of society in our nation that continue to separate and define us. Moving past November 8th means that we need to realize that despite who we supported in this election, whomever we have identified as our political opponents won’t suddenly be non-existent. I feel that it is more important than ever to understand why those who hold completely different viewpoints think the way that they do. That doesn’t mean we should agree – what it does mean is that we should listen, analyze, and be prepared to give a concretely logical response to what we consider to be counter to the progress of our nation as a whole. Communication and understanding from both sides need to be at the forefront as we inaugurate our new President come 2017 and in the coming years of a country that has found itself fiercely divided in the political arena.
I end with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. – “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”