Democrat; an advocate or supporter of democracy. Republican; a person advocating or supporting republican government. These two words have proven to be both divisive and yet symbolize a unifying ideology long held in our American history. These concepts, political parties, and ideologies are the topics of this first newsletter.
A Two-Party System:
A system of political invention that highlights two main parties from which political candidates are often drawn from and pitted against each other for election to public office. Founding Father John Adams once said, “A division of the republic into two great parties… is to be dreaded as the great political evil”. Many historians trace the American two-party system to 5 distinct eras. Originating in and around 1792 the Federalists and the Democratic-Republican Parties were the main political parties of the infancy of our democracy. Ultimately the split of the Democratic-Republican party would lead to differentiation in ideals seen in the great grandparents of our political parties today.
In the mid to late 1800s the Republican party was known largely for its abolitionist views. The compromise of 1877 further split the two parties in ideology of the “issue” of slavery. The Republican party, largely made up of “freedmen” (black slaves who were now free in the north) as well as northern white men who supported the abolishment of slavery. While the Democratic party consisted of a majority of southern slave owning white farmers. Abraham Lincoln perhaps objectively one of the greatest and… most progressive/liberal Presidents in our history was a member of the Republican party. With their progressive agenda of the 1800’s, the Republican party does not so clearly reflect that of the 21st century Republican party. Additionally, now the Democratic party is largely seen as “the party of the coasts”, distinctly reversed from its southern state and conservative political origins. I highlight this early history to point out that while we have become accustom to stark party lines, and have developed a large amount of tribalism in terms of our political support and views, we as citizens would do well to note that our beloved parties have flipped political ideologies time and time again. Perhaps instead we would do better to identify with our beliefs rather than with organizations run by political agents we have never met or conversed with?
The behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group. This concept has been used to describe American politics, highlighting behaviors and beliefs of the voting citizen most recently since the mid to late 2000’s. A divisive term that causes many to take a strong opinion regarding an issue without truly possessing the required underlying knowledge of the topic at hand to form a verifiably independent opinion. Often neighbors who never identify their political party affiliations to one another can agree on what is right and wrong about issues popular on the political landscape… For example, “common-sense” gun laws. A poll quoted by National Public Radio (NPR) and published by Quinnipiac, found that “73% of Americans agreed that more needs to be done to address gun violence”. However, when the same two neighbors start a conversation by self-identifying themselves as either Republican or Democrat the same conversation is met with stiff resistance and adamant opposition no matter the logical argument made on either side. This represents a prime example of the effects of tribalism on American political culture and debate. To further highlight this point, a study done by “More in Common”, a political research firm, found that Americans can be separated into 7 different political “tribes” yet when it came to major issues such as race, “81% (of Americans polled) believe that racism is a serious problem”. What do this statistics highlight? What do random polls covering the gamete of the political spectrum indicate about the status of our political climate today?
For one, perhaps we are not so divided as we thought. While a topic for another time, one would be prudent to note both national media as well as social media as “bull horns” of political segregation. These media outlets make their money by forming distinct political viewpoints and using bold and dividing language to grab viewers attention. These platforms do not owe loyalty to their viewership but rather to their paid advertisers and corporate shareholders. Their obligation is not to fact or political majority but rather to headlines and prompting emotional response. It is no wonder that we feel more divided than ever and yet facts show we are not so far apart as we have ever been. A further discussion of the impact of social media on our lives and behaviors to follow…