The increasing polarization in the American two-party system may be a step towards democratic erosion.
By Adelyn Davidson
The democratic system was adopted in the United States to unite the nation under a fair and balanced electoral process. Though the United States’ democracy is often distinguished as the strongest in the world, it is under a large amount of scrutiny in today’s political environment. The events leading up to and the 2016 election presidential election left the American two-party system more divided and therefore stronger than ever. The two-party system’s growth and unfaltering persistence in American politics were brought on by the effects of intense polarization such as political propaganda, hate speech, a divided media, and the perfect climate for widely spread misinformation to be harvested. Today, three years after President Trump’s election, the country is facing severe governmental, societal, and economic issues associated with the rapidly growing political rift. The continuance of arising problems related to this system is suggestive of the early stages of democratic erosion.
The ideologies behind the establishment of two significant defined and divided parties, in theory, sounds logical. In a perfect world, the split balances the country and causes a discussion, so everyone’s voice is heard. If the noncurrent party doesn’t agree with the incumbent party, the issue is addressed in the following election, and a change of power occurs. However, if the two parties are completely divided, the platform of the fair democracy will not be able to withstand the drastic measures associated with the presidential election. This form of intense polarization promotes the employment of unfair and anti-democratic practices to attain power (propaganda, etc.), undermining the definition of democracy in the first place.
However, polarization in a democracy is not necessarily inherently corrupt. Partisan polarization is often advantageous for growing and evolving democracies, especially in their early stages, yet intense polarization, that is so definitive of the modern US political environment, can lead to the decay and eventual erosion of the democratic political establishment as a whole. The divide between liberals and conservatives has become one of deeply rooted hatred in recent years. The desired goal behind the democratic two-party system in unison, however, this system rooted in fairness and unity is incongruously driving the country apart.
The most recent partial government shutdown and the longest in American history is definitive of how polarized the nation has actually become. The inability for the conservative president to come to an agreement with the liberal-leaning house left 800,000 Americans jobless for over a month. The polarization is damaging more than the political environment; it is destroying and inhibiting the lives of the people who make up the nation. The primary role of the president is to negotiate and compromise, and if he or she is not a strong enough leader to do so, the divergence between parties will only grow stronger.
The modern political climate has not only created inevitable internal conflict but has also played a role in America’s international relations and status as a global leader. The election of Donald Trump and the turbulent political climate that came, as a result, has left other nations including neighbors Canada and Mexico wondering what proposed actions the president will actually take to seclude America from the rest of the world. During his presidential campaign, he promised that he would reform trade, travel, and immigration to and from the United States. According to Pew Research, a median of 70% of Western European nations believe the Trump Administration will not be suitable for world affairs. The high percentage of citizens in other countries that do not like the US President make it difficult for him to be a National, let alone, a global figurehead. Because of the international disapproval of President Trump, America is viewed globally as a crumbling democracy.
Though the American democratic system has recently evolved, some political scientists believe that the democratic system has been eroding for decades and that the recent instance of intense polarization is part of its natural progression. Although the current political climate is more unstable now than it was in past presidencies, the total erosion of democracy can be prevented through studying politics and understanding the governing styles that work most effectively to mend the rift between political parties in United States as well as with countries across world.
- Photo by Gage Skidmore, “Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.”, Creative Commons Zero license.