The 2016 Presidential election is in full swing and after several months of campaigning we have begun to get a better understanding of each candidate. This presidential election cycle has been particularly interesting, as we have had several several individuals from the private sector throw their name into the ring. These atypical candidates have provided both entertainment and a new voice, during a time in which many Americans are either fed up with career politicians or politics altogether.
These fresh faces within the political arena come at an important time. Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any other point over the last two decades. As shown in the report, Political Polarization in the American Public, an increase in ideological uniformity and partisan antipathy has affected politics, compromise and everyday life.
The study describes that, “ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past.” In fact, 92% of Republicans fall to the the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats fall to the left of the median Republican. In this survey of 10,000 adults nationwide, it was determined that these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process.
But the problem goes even further, partisan animosity has increased substantially over this period as well. The negative views of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994, expressive a belief that “the opposing party’s policies are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”
These Americans are living in “ideological silos,” referring to the fact that they hold down-the-line ideological positions and this affects both politics are how they live their everyday lives.
The effects of this sharp political divide is clear. Gridlock on Capitol Hill is at a seemingly all-time high. Politicians on both the left and the right are essentially frustrated with the unwillingness of the other party to “compromise,” or more accurately stated, give their side what it wants.
However, these “sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans.” The majority of Americans do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views; these individuals do not believe that either party is a threat to the nation. The reality is that most Americans would rather have their representatives in government meet each other halfway, as opposed to holding out for more of what they want.
The most politically polarized individuals are more active in politics, amplifying the voices of those not willing to compromise. Meanwhile, Americans who are more open to compromise are fed up with “politics as usual” and become even less engaged in the political process. It appears that the contention between the Americans in the “ideological silos” has pushed the Americans who fall in the middle out of the way.
As a result, the candidates in office continue to reflect the views of the political active individuals, creating a vicious cycle or increased ideological uniformity and partisan antipathy on one side and less engagement on the other.
It is too early to tell, at this stage of the campaign season, how effective any of the private sector candidates would be as President. However, these candidates should be viewed as a welcomed addition to the political arena.
Whether it is through a shift in the political dialogue or actually holding office, the private sector candidates have the propensity to help break down ideological barriers and create a driving force for positive change. This shift will hopefully inspire more Americans to reengage in the political process.
In the end, the United States needs a President who has the ability to bridge the gap between the two parties. If the American people who are open to compromise become more politically engaged, than this may actually become a reality.