This Friday marks 238 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which led to the formation of our beloved United States of America. Could our founding fathers have foreseen the state of our nation’s current political landscape? Could they have predicted the polarization that exists today?
This divide shows up in many ways, not just in politics but in day-to-day life as well. Anyone who reads the posts on their Facebook friends’ pages can attest that politics creeps into too many discussions, no matter what the topic.
Stories on the various news websites, such as CNN and the Los Angeles Times, are often followed by comments, sometimes in the hundreds, spouting incredibly extremist political viewpoints. The words are vicious and sometimes disturbing.
According to a Pew Research Center survey of 10,000 adults published on June 12, 2014, Democrats and Republicans are more ideologically split than at any other time in the last two decades. The middle ground is shrinking with the study reporting that “92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, before I got married and became a full¬time mom, I used to enjoy discussing current events and politics with friends and colleagues. All points of view were represented and respected from liberal to conservative and everything in between. Now I hesitate to talk to anyone whose feelings aren’t already known to me.
In the same survey, 27% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans view the opposite party as a “threat to the nation’s well¬being.” Those are thoughts usually reserved for our country’s enemies, yet nearly two-thirds of us see our fellow Americans that way.
How did we get here? Where are the moderates? When both sides insist on getting everything they want without compromise, we get nothing. When neither side will even listen to the opposition’s words, we get impasse. Sadly, that leads to the gridlock we now see in Washington, DC and at all levels of government. Is this really what we want? There were likely many differences of opinion in 1776 and I would guess that not all the signers of the Declaration were completely happy with the document before them. In any case they were able to focus on what brought them together and not what divided them.
Could today’s politicians do that?
Sharon Raghavachary is a founder of the Crescenta Valley Community Association. She served for seven years on the Crescenta Valley Town Council, during which time she was a member of the Foothill Design Committee, which wrote design standards for Foothill Boulevard, and a member of Supervisor Antonovich’s Library Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.