Today, Americans go to the polls. Additionally, there are substantial variances in viewpoint. Rarely, if ever, can people agree on nothing. Donald Trump, a previous president, is seen as Zeus by half the population. Hades is the other.
“Polarization” comes in helpful if you’re searching for a word to describe this division. But that notion conceals more than it illuminates. We would forget that our shared country still unites us if we accept that we are separated by differences of opinion.
The paradox of populism would be preferable, perhaps. Even if Americans are split, we are experiencing division more and more frequently. That is not polarization, which divides a population into two opposing political camps. Instead, the United States is going through a depolarization, or the development of a single, overarching political reality. Contrary to expectations, we may argue that Americans have never been more united, although in a bad way.
The paradox is straightforward: as we get more separated, we become more united on the subject of our division.
To illustrate, consider the following. Is this a Republican or a Democrat statement? “I’m worried that we’ll lose the country if the opposing side wins the presidential election in 2024,” the speaker said. You can’t really tell. Try it again, but this time substitute 1936 for 2024. The final election of the dying Spanish Republic took place in that year. Both sides in the conflict that would lead to a civil war were about as divided as it was possible to be. Communists and anarchists engaged in combat before engaging in combat with republicans. All were against fascism. Unconciliable beliefs existed. But they all had at least one belief: if the other side triumphed, all would be lost. There’s a chance that America is set to witness another Civil War. The comparison is valid, though. We cannot accept the other’s point of view.
As a result, the feedback loop that has caused America’s separation has centered on the notion that we are divided. Thus, the term “polarization” doesn’t exactly describe the current situation. In that it implies that Americans are in two quite distinct locations, it is somewhat useful. And on the surface, that might be true. There are as many topics on which there is no agreement as a camel can travel. But keep in mind that fear now is what unites us. In this perspective, polarization is an eisegesis, a straightforward but yet inaccurate interpretation, rather than an American exegesis, a proper understanding of what is happening. The actual message is that MAGA and Marxism both hold the notion that your viewpoint is the only valid one.
It seems that fewer and fewer people are drawn to the concept of self-control. It seems that fewer and fewer people have a strong dislike for self-promotion. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a retiring Republican, recently made the second point. He lamented the basic loss of being able to admit when he was mistaken. Simply put, we are disengaging from the rules that govern our civic space. The issue is that we still have to share it because it is a public area. Contradiction is not the most harmful thing here. Accepting that there is no more room for disagreement is the riskiest move.
Benjamin Franklin said: “We must all hang together or, definitely, we shall all hang separately” after signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was implying, of course, that the British would arrange for the Founders’ quick and unpleasant demises if they didn’t support one another. Instead of fighting, which will almost certainly result in hanging from the next tree, it is better to join together and have a minuscule chance of success.
Let’s take Franklin’s remarks backwards in order to better comprehend where we are right now. We must all hang separately or, undoubtedly, we shall all hang together, as many Americans now would say. In other words, Americans would prefer to avoid contact with other Americans who hold different political ideas. However, that is not practicable unless the nation is divided in half, with California and New York sailing to Europe and the middle remaining in place. Franklin’s statements, however, are accurate. We are all entangled in this. Period. Polarization is ultimately just a fast guide. But it’s also a very incomplete account.
Instead, we are now. Unum, or one, even if pluribus, or many, is still present. In addition, that is a nice thing. It cannot be avoided either. So what better way to be both varied and united than to engage in the most American of all activities? being devoid of a monster truck. not firing cans of beer. avoiding the apple pie.