Many Americans are deeply concerned by the current political landscape. With the 2024 election season looming, several have taken to the internet to discuss what caused society’s increasing polarization and what we can do to combat it.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
“I’m sure there has always been some element of crazy in our political system, especially on a national level,” an American said. “But in the last decade, something has changed.”
Division, Anger, Hate
“There seems to be so much anger. So much division. So much hate,” they went on. “Bipartisanship has become considered a sign of weakness, even betrayal. What has changed with our politics?”
“Honestly, I think it has to do with the rise of 24-hour news networks,” one person theorized. They went on to explain that there isn’t enough breaking news to justify 24-hour coverage, and the extra time gets filled with political pundits who tell people how to feel about the news rather than the news itself.
“The rise of the internet has made it possible for anyone to call themselves a journalist,” another person thought. “So it’s become easy to dismiss news that doesn’t agree with your viewpoint as ‘fake news.'”
Others compared the media’s constant coverage to watching a close sports game. “Constant polling really feeds into this idea,” one commenter noted. “My guys up by a point, oh no, he’s down a point. Gets you really invested in it.”
Too Much Information
Several thought there was too much information available. “Essentially, there’s more information out there than one person can consume and digest. It takes real effort to find reliable sources and understand the whole context,” one person explained.
A few noted that the problem may be how our elections are structured. They said gerrymandering districts across the nation led to primaries that attracted extreme candidates.
Won’t Work Together
By only having candidates that sit fully on the left and fully on the right, “we end up with one branch of government that lacks moderates and lacks the ability and willingness to work with each other,” one person expounded.
News As Entertainment
“I think the main issue is the merger between news and entertainment,” another commenter theorized. “People don’t tune in to Sean Hannity…Rachel Maddow, etc because they’re looking for information. They watch because it’s enjoyable.”
Many thought social media was the real problem. One person explained that social media is always in our pockets, algorithms are built to show things we’ll react to, and we can see our friend’s reactions aligning with ours. “It’s the perfect echo chamber,” they explained.
Blame Newt Gingrich
Several directly blamed Newt Gingrich. During Gingrich’s time as speaker, he made several changes that may have pushed polarization in the House, including shortening the work week and allowing representatives to make their primary residence outside D.C.
Kids Used To Play Together
As one person explained, “Prior to [Gingrich as Speaker], Members of Congress often maintained their primary residence in the DC area so their kids would go to school here. Their kids went to school together. They had opportunities for interaction outside of the Capitol.”
What Can Save Us
There seem to be many reasons for America’s increasing polarization. Finding a way to heal the divide is more elusive. Only a few commenters had suggestions on what to do.
Long Form Solution
“I think a good start is moving politician debates to long-form and not some half-commercial, half-shouting mess with no neutral fact-checking – real actual debates,” one person suggested. They went on to explain that long-form podcasts were a step in the right direction.
Time Will Heal
Others thought the problem would fix itself as older generations stopped participating in politics. “I’m willing to bet that Gen Z will be way more ‘cynical’ (in a good way) to the easy rhetoric that has hoodwinked so many angry, confused boomers,” one person explained.
One person pointed out that our current divide is nothing new. “As bad as things seem now, if you actually look at American history and consider how things must’ve been in the past, you’d realize that economic and political dysfunction has made up this entire country’s history,” they said.
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