OPINION: A Divided Country

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In 2004, when President Bush was elected for a second term, I sat on the couch in a run-down house where I lived with 5-6 other people and watched as the country decided that more of the same was what felt safe at the time. Of course, I felt disappointment, but since I couldn’t really identify with John Kerry, I took it in stride.

During that election cycle, Barack Obama emerged on my radar and I, like many young people, found him to be everything Bush wasn’t. I knew he would be president when I heard him speak. I didn’t know when, but I knew that would happen.

In 2008, when President Obama was elected for his first term, I sat on my friend’s couch and watched as the country changed forever.  I was a twenty-something college student during Bush’s second term and was heavily influenced by the worsening economy, liberal arts environment, and on-going war. Everything that I stood for went against this president’s agenda. Then, along came Barack Obama, who was charismatic, intelligent, organized, and who spoke to my generation.

At that moment, the divisions in this country got deeper. Subsequently, in 2012 when he was elected again, they worsened. Now, is it a coincidence that his election and the worsening division happened the exact year that social media became a “thing”? Maybe.

A tangent about Social Media

Social Media is powerful.

It is powerfully important to the broad scope of what is happening in our country and it’s also a powerfully important tool.

Social Media lets everyone have an “anonymous voice”. No longer do we, as human beings, have to physically interact with our peers to have political (or any other kind of) debates. We can open a browser window or an app on our phones and we can spew whatever nonsense we have in our heads without even the slightest of consequences. Moreover, we can find other like-minded human beings who will not only validate our need for attention by liking and sharing but who will also comment and continue the perpetual cycle of groupthink. Additionally, for those of us who love attention so much that we need to disagree with people, we have an entire audience of opposition ripe for the trolling.

Social Media is also a tool. It can be used to reach millions of people, spread information and news, reach customers, and stay connected. This is what Social Media is actually for. But, I guess we have to take the bad with the good? Or, we could always choose to have conversations.

Alas…back on topic

For the last 10 years, my life has changed exponentially. I finished school. I found a job. I bought a house. I make a decent wage. And, I’m living within my means. Now, you’re probably thinking, who cares about this? Well, I, like many Americans, have prospered during Obama’s tenure.

This is important because it’s exactly the point of division that was used successfully in 2016 by the GOP to claw open the throbbing vein of the country that was about to burst. With unemployment and economic disparity, the part of the country that actually elects the president was ripe for the taking. They call it the “Rust Belt” because of all of the manufacturing industries common in the area of the country that the GOP targetted. Under Obama’s tenure, this swath of people didn’t prosper. Industries in the northern part of the country took hits.

So you see, on one side there’s a group of people who are comfortable and have done pretty well and then there’s a growing number of people seeing this and are angry about it. That anger that the GOP and Donald Trump tapped into was already there. Once they recognized this they ignited it and the anger became visceral. It was no longer a quiet storm brewing under the surface, it was something that really shook the foundation of the country as a whole.

On the flip side, the Democrats also had a major problem. See, in elections, the RNC and DNC like to have one candidate so they can throw all of their fundraising and campaigning power behind that person. In the 2016 Primary race, the DNC chose Hillary Clinton and the young people chose Bernie Sanders. This created a huge problem for the DNC because mobilizing the youth is one of their main goals and they couldn’t do it for HRC after she won the nomination. Thousands of young people took #BernieorBust for real and didn’t show up on election day.

Now, you’re going to say…but HRC won the popular vote. And to that, I’d like to point to Al Gore circa 2000. Need I say more?

Let’s talk about the GOP

In 1854, the Republican party was founded as the opposition to the Democratic Party. The GOP is the party that was for the abolition of slavery, for conservative spending and social issues, and for “small government”.

Today, the GOP isn’t really associated with any of those principles anymore and I truly believe that the GOP doesn’t really exist in the mainstream political sphere. Now, there are plenty of Americans who are all about some GOP principles. I, myself, am all for conservative spending and less government interference. I just happen to swing a little left on social issues.

You might recall hearing that the GOP touts being the “Party of Lincoln” and back in the day, that really meant something. Unfortunately, our current political leaders seem to take party affiliation with a grain of salt and base their principles on what’s popular at the moment. This is the case with Democrats as well.

Here’s the problem with ditching party platforms but keeping party names. The GOP was founded on conservative principles and on less government interference. The last two GOP leaders have driven up the national deficit, passed the invasive Patriot Act, and want to tell women what to do with their bodies. These aren’t the Republican values the party was founded on. Moreover, the party has split into numerous factions making it impossible to solidify a base.

The Birth of Trump

Donald Trump is the product of our current divisive climate, the splintering politics of the GOP, and of Social Media. I truly believe that Donald Trump would never have been elected president if Twitter didn’t exist, if Barack Obama was never president, or if the Republican platform still meant something.

So, you’re probably thinking, what can we do about it or…

who cares?

I think you should care because it’s only going to get worse. The next person elected president could be someone to unite the country or turn up the chaos.

It seems almost like a “dirty” word now, but moderates do exist in this country and moderates used to get elected. Bill Clinton didn’t get elected because he was a polarizing person feeding off the fear and hatred of the country. He got elected because he was a Democrat who could charm the pants off southern white people. He stayed safely in the middle of the political rhetoric and he could schmooze with the best of them.

A lot of people find that false and like Trump because he seems “authentic,” but honestly, this president isn’t taking the time to get you to like him, he’s tapping into our biases and base instincts. He feeds on this hatred and he spreads lies and fear. You can call Clinton a womanizer and slimy politician all you want, but he knew how to talk to people. Becoming president has always been a job interview where the most liked person won.

Now, I don’t think that we need another Bill Clinton. I don’t even think that we need a Barack Obama. Right now, I think we need a president with a level head, clear approach, calming demeanor, and a willingness to listen, lead, and get things done. Does that person exist? Sure! Where is he/she? No clue. But I’m on the lookout.

If there’s one takeaway from this absurdly long diatribe, I hope that it’s that this country was breaking before Trump, but it can be fixed when he’s gone. We decide that.

 

 

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