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If one were to ask anyone that predates the millenials about the current political atmosphere, responses tend to be of similar nature. Despite political affiliation, everyone seems to have a strong distaste for the polarization of politics. The response is often, “back in the Reagan-Clinton era and before that, people could discuss politics, civilly.” That comment often precedes the observation, “I do not know how we ended up here.” So how did the U.S. become entrapped in the disease of polarization?
The continuation of divisive tactics on both sides of the political aisle have led to resentful attitudes toward discussing important issues facing the United States. The blame cannot be held entirely by the parties or politicians. The people elect those they believe are best fit for service in public office. The denial of responsibility is a symptom of the lack of integrity in the postmodern era, but that is a separate issue in itself.
The trends are self evident. In previous eras, radical voices were often a minority, so where did the shift occur that led the U.S. to this point? The cultural revolution at the turn of the 21st century is largely responsible for the current situation. The shift towards a relativist society to fulfill peace in response to growing tensions have had an adverse effect. With relativist thought and philosophy, comes an inherent inability to claim objective Truth. Alongside the movement towards relativism, and thus, all opinions becoming equal in the eyes of society, minority voices became more pervasive. The new platform for the extreme attracted the two primary parties that were looking for a competitive advantage. This sad reality, intertwined with the divisive nature of relativism, has led the U.S. down a self destructive path.
The small bit of honor that was held in political discussion is completely absent. The same freedom of speech that is a representative pinnacle of liberty has also been the thorn in the side of democracy and a catalyst to the collapse of compromise. The average response of generations past was that of centrist conviction, but with the polarization of politics, the response tends to fall in line with ‘party politics’ regardless of how extreme.
The inability to compromise has created a stalemate preventing progress and has become an inhibitor to conservation. No longer can there be a healthy balance between conservation of values and progress. The desynchronization of respectful discourse has been lost in the past decades of American culture. The results have been detrimental to the function of democracy. The choice to continue down a path of destruction, or to reject the perils of sensationalism and radical politics, is one that should be examined promptly. The damage is not irreparable, but the current direction is leading toward destruction..