I recently read Ian Bremmer’s article from Time Magazine titled The U.S. Capitol Riot Was Years in the Making. Here’s Why America Is So Divided. He mentioned several key turning points that have led to division, but I thought it would do well to closely examine each of these turning points. I’m not sure that there is a better word to describe the political landscape of the past year than divisive. Divisive, as in the opposite of union, with very little proper communication or compromise between the two major parties of our system in the United States. Granted, it was an election year, the possible re-election year of one of the most controversial presidents in our history, so there were strong feelings on both sides that this would be a turning point for the better or for the even worse. Overall, the transformation of political party rivals being turned into enemies and a general mistrust of democracy are two indicators of democratic erosion, and I think a simple recap of the major points in the past year would be a great way to refresh everyone’s minds as to why tensions are as high as they currently are in our country.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a major issue in every country around the world, but due to President Trump’s failure to act quickly and force mask mandates and actual quarantines, the virus continues to spread throughout the country even today. This was a massive loss on his part, due to it being an election year and everyone’s most recent idea of Trump was his failure to save hundreds of thousands of lives. This was most likely a big reason for voters who voted for Trump in 2016 who didn’t vote for him again in 2020.
After another black American named George Floyd was killed by police brutality in 2020, it was the last straw for a large portion of the country. There had been a public outcry against the treatment that people of color suffered at the hands of the police in this country, and the list of names is so long that at this point it is hard to remember them all. The country banded together to protest both the police and the people who employ them, the U.S. government, calling for action and reform. In general, the left-sided with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the right-sided with the Blue Lives Matter movement, raising tensions immensely.
The election was obviously going to be controversial, and voter turnout was the highest in history, so people really cared about who they wanted as president, mostly because the country felt that there were so many issues that needed attention. However, after the votes were counted and Biden was announced as the president-elect, current president Donald J. Trump refused the selection, swearing that voter fraud was the reason that he had lost his job. Despite almost no proof of this occurring, he continued to spin this tale, further damaging his own reputation, but also the republican trust in democracy for those who believed that he had been cheated.
A result of that loss of trust from republicans resulted in a major embarrassment for the GOP on January 6th, 2021, when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the capitol to stop the finalization of Biden’s victory. Thousands of people entered and vandalized the capitol, but didn’t really achieve anything other than a major news story and solidifying a failure for the GOP.
As you can see, the country is in disarray, and President Joe Biden has come out of the gates quickly with many executive orders to repeal the damage that President Trump did during his time in office. Will the public sentiment towards democracy return to positive and will the parties return to a more respectful relationship? Only time will tell, but the future doesn’t exactly look bright.
Bremmer, I. (2021, January 16). Why is America so DIVIDED TODAY? Retrieved March 06, 2021, from https://time.com/5929978/the-u-s-capitol-riot-was-years-in-the-making-heres-why-america-is-so-divided/