One Nation, Two Parties: Why The US Is In The Midst Of A Civil War

by John Haltiwanger

The American Civil War was one of the most tumultuous events in US history. It was primarily a consequence of the evils of slavery, but also a product of differing perspectives between the North and South over the role government should have in society.

Ultimately, the South lost the war, slavery ended and the United States of America was left intact. By the end of it all, 600,000 people had lost their lives.

The war taught America the true cost of solving domestic political disputes with violence. It was a tragic lesson that must never be forgotten.

Today, however, the United States is engaged in yet another civil war. This conflict is not being fought with guns, but it is debilitating the progress of the nation.

America's New Civil War: Political Polarization Is Fostering Deep Divisions In The US

Polarization is the most defining element of American politics at present. This is true both within the government and across the public. Simply put, America is ideologically entrenched, and it's arguably the most divided it has been since the Civil War.

With deep divisions and essentially no center in American politics, consensus is a very foreign concept in Washington DC at the moment.

Politics is extremely personal. Thus, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with others over certain issues. Yet, we've allowed this to go too far. Disagreement should inspire compromise, not further divisions. This is how America has moved forward in the past. Presently, however, it's at a standstill.

According to a poll conducted by Pew Research earlier this year, 27 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans view one another as a threat to the nation's well-being. Simply put, partisan antipathy has grown to extraordinary levels.

The poll also found that the Americans who express consistently liberal or consistently conservative opinions have doubled over the past 20 years. In essence, both sides are more extreme than at any time in recent history.

The tragedy is that neither are willing to admit it. American politics have become a petty blame-game, and it's dividing both the government and communities.

Things have gotten so bad that 23 percent of consistent liberals would be unhappy if a family member married a conservative. Respectively, 30 percent of conservatives would be upset if an immediate family member married a liberal. Thus, America is so ideologically polarized that large chunks of the population are deliberately attempting to create divisions in society.

Both liberals and conservatives are to blame for this. Indeed, as the Pew poll shows, they've even begun to distort what it means to compromise:

To those on the ideological right and left, compromise now means that their side gets more of what it wants. About six-in-ten across-the-board liberals (62%) say the optimal deal between President Barack Obama and the GOP should be closer to what Obama wants. About as many consistent conservatives (57%) say an agreement should be more on the GOP’s terms.

When it comes down to it, both sides simply see different realities and visions for how to move the country forward. Our political convictions are largely a product our upbringings, not universal truths.

The United States is vast and diverse. Accordingly, Americans should celebrate differences in values and opinions, as this is what defines the soul of this nation. A country finds balance and harmony when those who differ find a way to appreciate one another. This is the path towards compromise and progress.

No one is right all the time. We all have inherent biases. Until we become more cognizant of this, America will continue to falter.

Political Polarization Has Hurt The Nation's Progress

The polarization of American politics definitely hit a low-point last year when the government literally shutdown. Due to the fact that Republicans and Democrats couldn't agree over a spending bill, the government was brought to a complete halt.

The shutdown cost the government billions of dollars and had a number of negative effects on the economy, among other consequences.

Correspondingly, as Dan Balz of the Washington Post highlights:

The government shutdown did not happen by accident. It is the latest manifestation — an extreme one by any measure — of divisions long in the making and now deeply embedded in the country’s politics.

What's more, in terms of laws passed, this Congress has been one of the least productive legislatures in American history.

Without moderation or centrist legislators, the government is decidedly less efficient.

The country should not be held hostage by ideological extremism. It's time to begin breaking down the barriers between political parties. Millennials will be the next generation of American leaders, hence, it's up to young people to lead the charge in this effort.

Millennials Can Save Us... They Just Need To Increase Political Participation

Statistically, Millennials have a more positive view of Democrats than Republicans. This does not mean that there aren't any Republicans within Generation-Y, but it's a fact that America's young people typically vote Democratic, if at all.

Correspondingly, barely any Millennials voted in the recent midterm elections. Over half of the young people who did participate (55 percent) voted Democratic.

The big takeaway here, however, is that Millennials are not as politically engaged as they should be. Furthermore, if this generation was more politically active, the nation would be decidedly less polarized. As the largest and most diverse generation in American history, Millennials have an undeniable capacity to influence the direction of this country.

Half of all Millennials now identify as independent. This is a huge sign that this generation is quite fed up with hyper-partisanship and desires less polarization.

Indeed, Generation-Y is far less partisan than its older counterparts. Much of this has to do with the fact that even if Millennials identify as Democrat or Republican, they often share many similar perspectives.

For example, while Democrats have a greater record of supporting same-sex marriage, a majority of young Republicans (61 percent) are also in favor of allowing same-sex marriage.

Simply put, in terms of social values, it's fair to say that both young Democrats and Republicans are often in consensus. Therefore, one might argue that if we had more Millennials in office, there would be less gridlock.

This generation is more progressive, and more willing to engage in civil conversations about contentious issues.

Relatedly, even if you don't agree with her politics, Saira Blair stands as an example for the rest of her generation. At just 18 years old, she just became the youngest legislator in the country, and will now serve in the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Thus, if America is to move forward, Millennials need to make a more concerted effort to become involved in the political process. This country desperately needs young people to vote more frequently and to begin running for public office.

In the process, we might finally rid ourselves of the abhorrent divisions that have hindered the nation's health and progress.