We’re Not As Polarized As Advertised

I am sick to death of hearing about how "polarized" we all are.

I know you've heard that term quite a bit. It's always accompanied by overwrought statements about how the country's never been so incredibly divided, and we can't possibly get it together enough to get anything constructive done. The reason there are so many problems in Washington are because there are two sides, and they are too far apart! OMG! Whatever shall we do? 

First of all, stop believing everything you hear or read. 

We're not really all that divided. It just seems that way. One problem we have now is the Internet. With the Internet age comes the ability for everyone with an opinion to express it for all to hear. And with the relative anonymity the Internet provides, it's often possible to do so multiple times, which can make a group of ten people look like 100. It's just too possible to make something small look very big over the Internet. 

And that's the problem. A relatively small group of people on the far left and the far right scream loudly and scream often, and the effect is a cacophony that drowns out what most people actually think. As a liberal, I've spent a lot of time in red states and living in red areas of blue states, and I've found is that real liberals and real conservatives agree on about 95% of all issues, at least to some degree. The disagreement isn't usually about the issue as much as how to solve it. You can kind of tell this, because the far right wingers and the far left wingers truly stand out, even in red or blue areas.

Part of the problem seems to be that most "debate," such as it is, revolves around a few select issues that certain people want to emphasize over everything else, and both extreme sides of the debate tend to scream the loudest, which gives many people the impression that only two sides exist, and that they're too far apart to ever agree, Those issues are chosen and emphasized by those on both extremes of the political spectrum with the express purpose of making those issues seem far more important than others, when they aren't necessarily.

We're seeing that now, when it comes to jobs. It's the most important issue to most people, and yet, it seems as if no one is talking about it. The right wing goes on about Benghazi and this IRS silliness, while the left wing would rather discuss drones and the availability of Plan B. NO ONE is discussing the fact that the American Jobs Act has been sitting in the House for almost two years, and the Republicans won't even discuss it. Trust me when I tell you; whichever side starts talking about job creation seriously will be the political winners for a long time. 

Here's another issue; how far apart are most Americans on guns, really? We hear the two extreme sides; the extreme right wants nothing to happen and thinks the world would be more peaceful if everyone was packing. The extreme left thinks the solution to the problem is to ban any gun that looks scary, if not all guns, period. But the vast majority of Americans are between those two positions. They have no problem with registering guns. They have no problem with making sure everyone who buys a gun undergoes a background check. And most, including gun enthusiasts, love the concept of a concealed carry permit, which is simply no more than a gun license. Basically, while the extremes are what most people hear from, the actual view of a majority of the populace is usually a rational place somewhere between the two poles.  The reason we can't get gun control passed is because the right wing screams nonsense, and we spend all of our time pointing out that it's nonsense, rather than supporting rational alternatives. 

Here's another; while the far right and far left both want to repeal Obamacare for different reasons, most people want to see what happens, and they like the changes so far. The funny thing is, Republicans who voted to repeal it for the 37th time yesterday are catering to, at most, 20% of the populace. And the far left, who represent even fewer, continue to scream about "single payer" and a "public option." This, despite the fact that it is a lot easier to leap from Obamacare to a single payer system, and that adding a "public option" to Obamacare would be more effective than adding it to the old system of health insurance.  

One reason that we can't seem to overcome the right wing is because a portion of the progressive side of the aisle thinks they have to say the exact opposite of whatever they do. That's why we seem polarized. Both extreme sides yelling at the top of their lungs creates that impression. 

As I have said for years, if we want to create a truly progressive society, we have to speak to the majority, and not just those who agree with us. The reason we seem polarized at times is because we have this incessant need to scream the opposite of what they scream. We have to listen and find a middle ground that all voters can agree on, and work from there. We have to find out what people care about, and speak to that. If everyone but the right wing agrees on the importance of job creation, who cares if the right is off in the corner screaming "Benghazi"? We can all agree that gas costs too much, and that using half as much is a good thing. Who cares if the right wing is off in their corner, screaming "Drill, baby, Drill!"? 

The political middle always wins in the end, because they're a majority. Whether the country moves to the left or the right depends entirely on which side of the political spectrum does a better job of moving the middle in its direction. Right now, the right wing's approach is to depress turnout among those in the middle. By making progressives scream at them, thus creating the illusion of polarization, they are enlisting us in their ultimate goal. And it's worked well. Back before the neocon era, voter turnout was around 60% in presidential election years and around 50% in off year elections. Over the last 36 years or so, turnout's usually been about 50% in presidential years and less than 40% in off years. 

By speaking to most Americans, and not screaming at the right wing, we can encourage people to show up at the polls, and effectively remove the right wing from power in government. 

We're not polarized. But the illusion helps the right. Stop helping. 

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 The PCTC Blog


  1. Milt, how can stand up for this cad!! He’s running a police state. Don’t forget that Obama is spying on journalists at the AP, he’s worse than Bush!!
    …….well, not really, Holder is using powers given by Congress to find a snitch. Questionable, but certainly not illegal. And nobody but the most cynical Emo-Progressive or Alex Jones devotee thinks Obama is going after newspapers – just trying to close up government leaks.

Comments are closed.