The United States political field is filled with big names, and even bigger opinions. There are many up-and-coming passionate politicians on both ends of the spectrum. On the left, there are young representatives such as Alexandria-Oscasio Cortez that have gained fame through their radical democratic-socialist views on issues such as education, energy, healthcare, the economy, and more. Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez has been supported by other “rock star” politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Ed Markey. On the right, politicians such as President Donald Trump have risen to international fame by having extreme conservative views on issues pertaining to: immigration, abortion laws, the military spending budget, the economy, and much more. Donald Trump has been supported by politicians such as Mike Pence, Steve Scalise, and most of the Republican party.
The connection between politicians such as Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez and Donald Trump is that they both have an extremely loyal following, they have both become prominent public figures, and they are both radical members of their parties. Politics were not originally created with the intention to make individuals famous, but in recent years candidates have begun to reach stardom. Many times, this is due to them going “viral” on social media. The first time a candidate went “viral” was when Donald Trump ran for executive office. Trump, who was already famous, used social media like twitter and Instagram to further the “wow-factor” that surrounded him. Making candidates “viral” spread to other individuals such as Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez, Beto O’Rourke, and even Adam Schiff.
When candidates have loyal followers, with an active online presence, it leads to an extreme polarization within constituents. This polarization leads to a split within not only politics, but within the American people. A research article done by Harvard Professor Dr. Sounman Hong states that, “Social Media is attracting considerable attention for its potential to increase polarization of political views.” The study that Dr. Hong conducted collected data from politician’s twitter accounts, and followed their activities on twitter. It also compared the political views of the politician, to that of their followers. The conclusion of the study was that “Evidence from our empirical investigation indicated that politicians with extreme ideologies generally attracted a larger public audience than their moderate peers….. Results of our study suggest that political polarization may be problematic in social media and can impact governmental practices related to the digital age.”
The polarization of politics within America can be directly correlated to the further erosion of the United States democracy. A collaborative research study led by Professor Jennifer Lynn McCoy came to the conclusion that “Extreme political polarization weakens democracy.” She explains this conclusion by elaborating that “Each side views the other political party and their supporters as a threat to the nation or their way of life if that other political party is in power. For that reason, the incumbent’s followers tolerate more illiberal and increasingly authoritarian behavior to stay in power. This damages democracy.”
The further polarized our country becomes, the harder it will be for our countries leaders to work together as a progressive, productive whole. The use of Social Media has made certain politicians seem as if they are “god-like” or “larger than life.” It is important to remember that politicians are not singers, actors, or movie stars. Politicians exist to represent us (the people) and what our communities need. Despite what caused the extreme polarization to begin within our country, it is vital that we change. We as a country need to listen, and compromise with those that may have opposing political views. Once we can learn to accept the differences that exist within each other, we can begin to understand how to move forward as one united country.