Why America is Divided

“Regardless of how the election turns out, I will not hold hate, disdain, or ridicule for those who voted differently from me. Whether I am pleased or upset about the outcome, I will seek to understand the concerns and aspirations of those who voted differently and will look for opportunities to work with people with whom I don’t agree.”

That was the pledge that Luther President Jennifer K. Ward asked all staff, students and faculty members to sign this past Tuesday, the day of the 2020 Presidential Election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. The pledge is part of a wider initiative, “With Malice Towards None,” by non-profit organization Braver Angels to depolarize American politics. It was made in order to hold Americans accountable; anyone who signs the pledge is committing to respecting people who voted differently, instead of showing blatant disgust or disdain. While Braver Angels’ initiative has the right idea, one must recognize that it’s very unrealistic in the current state of American society. However, amidst the divide, the necessity of political unity persists.

As a country, we are arguably more divided than ever. There’s evidence supporting the need of political unity everywhere— in the polls, in our city streets and even in Congress. But, the polarization has become seemingly insurmountable. Take, for example, exit poll data from last Tuesday’s election. The New York Times reported that a large percentage of Trump and Biden voters supported political and social issues that leaned in favor of their respective political beliefs, while almost always opposing issues that didn’t. There was almost no overlap between voters on issues such as the condition of the nation’s economy, the criminal justice system, response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or even the temperament and attitude of candidates. While there’s a clear need for political unity, the 2020 election suggests that America is too strained for that unity to come anytime soon.

Furthermore, the summer of protests in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement — and the subsequent counter-protests by the All Lives Matter movement — represent the societal divide of America, and the major flaw in the “With Malice Towards None” pledge. Black Lives Matter advocates for human rights, specifically protesting police brutality against African-Americans in the United States. The fact that anyone would have any opinion on human rights other than the fact that everyone should have them is despicable; There’s no reason for anyone to try and find common ground with a person who believes minority groups are inferior and less deserving of rights. This is one of the flaws of the “With Malice Against None” pledge; It favors mutual understanding and acceptance over calling out something that’s egregious and wrong.

Admittedly, this entire situation seems very pessimistic. Bemoaning the state of American domestic politics does nothing to improve the polarized state of the country. The election of Joe Biden as President of the United States gives America a chance to rebuild. While he’s not the perfect candidate, and his administration clearly has flaws that will need to be addressed, Biden’s moderate-liberal political stance allows him to pursue progressive policies but not alienate the conservative American citizen, which will be necessary assuming the Republican party holds control of the Senate. But what is most important about Joe Biden is that he can heal the partisan divide, but also is able to recognize the things that cannot be compromised on. Biden proved this in his victory speech on November 7, where he pledged to be a president “who doesn’t see Red and Blue states, but a United States.”

“To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy,” Biden said. “We are not enemies. We are Americans.”

Then, moments later, Biden proclaimed his administration’s stance on important issues, including racial justice, COVID, healthcare and climate change, saying that Americans face “the battle to restore decency, defend democracy, and give everyone in this country a fair shot.” In one speech, Joe Biden showed that he is the best candidate for bringing people together, but also leaving outdated beliefs in the past.

The Braver Angels organization is correct in their observation that America needs to rebuild its political unity. However, they fail to grasp the current state of America and how divided we are over political and social issues. Hopefully, in the coming years and under a better administration, the fractured state of society will improve.

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.