I don’t know about you guys, but I am sick of the press telling me how “polarized” the politics is. And don’t tell me you haven’t heard or read it. It’s all they talk about. On every issue and every discussion, we’re told that “the two sides” are so far apart, they can never reconcile and get anything done.
OMG! Whatever shall we do? How will we ever save the country! We are doomed. Doomed, I tell you!
No,. we’re not. Not really.
What you are seeing these days is the laziness and sloth of today’s journalism. And frankly, the laziness and sloth of their audience, who apparently can’t be bothered to investigate the truth and find out the facts. If someone on cable TV news doesn’t tell it to them, it didn’t happen. Worse, if someone on cable news says it, it must be exactly how s/he said.
Then there is social media, in which everyone creates their own little bubble and they think everything that happens in that bubble is how the world works. I mean, think about it; on Twitter, we only follow people who think like we do and on Facebook, we can block posts from those friends who happen to say the opposite of what we believe is the right thing. To compound the problem on Twitter, one person can create hundreds of other profiles and make you think hundreds of people think the same thing. They can make a group of 20 really loud people seem like 2,000. It’s like the Bernie Stans phenomenon this past year. Consider also that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and the media is treating him like an unstoppable, runaway train. Gee, how will Hillary Clinton ever be able to stop him? Whatever shall we do? Has America become fascist? What is wrong with us, that WE would potentially elect such a man? We are doomed!
Seriously, people need to calm down.
I knew there was a problem a long time ago. Listen to how many times the press – and I don’t just mean cable news – ask what news you want to hear or read about. I remember when Katie Couric went on her listening tour before she started doing the CBS Evening News and asked us what we wanted her to report about. That’s not a reporter’s job. Their job is to tell us what is happening in the world, not to have us tell them.
Basically, we have media in this country that specializes in click-bait. They love the Kardashians because that’s what they think people like. We used to hear about every time Britney Spears belched and we know about every celebrity breakup, whether we care about it or not.
In other words, we are not polarized in this country, the press just tells us we are. Trump isn’t all that popular. The vast majority of Americans couldn’t give a shit less where trans people pee. But they’re desperate for clicks and views. so they focus on the shiny keys. The fact is, they focus on a small group of “news junkies” on the far right and the far left, who just happen to scream the loudest, and they amplify them even more and make them sound as if they are a larger part of the electorate than they are. The effect is a cacophony of nonsense that tends to drown out what other people think, as well as the actual facts.
For example, to hear Bernie Stans tell it, they are ignored, and Hillary Clinton gets all of the attention. However, as of mid-April, guess who passed Trump as the most popular morning show guest among major party candidates? It wasn’t Hillary.
To those of us who don’t spend all of our time “informing”ourselves by trolling for “news on social media” or sitting in front of the TV listening to opinions and screaming at them, it’s obvious that the far right and the far left are outliers. True liberals and actual conservatives run the gamut and we agree on most important issues; our only disagreement is usually on the exact details. That’s obvious if you get out and look around; the extreme far left and the extreme far right always stick out like roses in a cow pasture.
Our public debate, in other words, is being dominated by people we would largely never meet on the street. That’s because the extremes of both sides make up about 10-15% of the population. That means, about 70% of voters care about real life, and they just want to live life and get along with others. Let me be clear; the average person doesn’t give a shit about “income inequality.” They want everyone who works hard to make enough to live a decent life and, if they have that, they don’t care how much the CEO of their company makes. They don’t want college to be free, they want their kids to be able to get an education without being put into the poor house. Likewise, almost no one besides perverted right wing creeps cares whether or not the person in the next stall was born with a dick, they don’t care if total strangers marry members of the same sex and they do want everyone to have access to affordable health care, they just don’t know how to do that. We have one side screaming “repeal the (Black guy’s) healthcare system” and the other side screaming “single-payer,” but we don’t hear from the 70% of the country who doesn’t agree with either of those.
The same is true of guns; how polarized can we possibly be, when 90% of the country agrees that we need more gun control than we have? I know the press keeps telling us that we’re too polarized to get decent gun laws, but when the bill to make background checks universal was in Congress, 90% of the American people supported it.
Unfortunately, we have two extreme sides of the aisle, each of whom feels as if they have to constantly “fight,” and that “fighting” entails saying the opposite of what the other side’s extremists have to say. They only make up about 25% of the electorate, but, thanks to the state of our journalism, we think they represent a lot more than that. Hell; as powerful as you imagine Donald Trump is, he still only has about 40% of Republican votes in the primary and only about 25% of the population identify as Republican. Do the math: 40% of 25% = 10%. That means 90% of voters don’t like Trump enough to vote for him.
The political middle always ends up winning because they’re the majority. Most of the country is not polarized, we are just giving the loudest minority of voters too much credit. Think about it; we all have friends and family who are a little too right wing for our tastes, but we learn to live with them, don’t we? And when you talk to them long enough, you find out they aren’t as bad as they sound at first. We can all get along, but only if we align with like-minded people.
Unfortunately, since the Republican Party’s main strategy is to depress turnout and the illusion of polarization does exactly that, we have to stop acting as if we’re all polarized if we want to get rid of the right wing once and for all. And we should want to do that, right?