Understanding the divide in American politics

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Written by danarel

The polarization in American politics today seems to be more obvious in the 2016 election than ever before. America’s two party system has always had stark differences of opinion on how to run the country. The Republicans focus more on what they call personal accountability, still believing in the American dream that if you work hard, good things will come to you. Democrats, on the other hand, believe the American system is rigged in favor of more privileged Americans and that the American dream is simply not a reality for many poor or minority families who are not given a fair chance. Democrats tend to support social welfare programs such as food stamps, lower housing costs, and programs that make healthcare more affordable. 

While the Republicans in this election tend to stand for many of the same issues, they are currently battling for the conservative vote by showing the American people who much more they dislike things such as social welfare programs, immigrants, and of course, terrorism, and more importantly in their mind, Muslims. 

The Republicans

When someone like Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner says the U.S. should ban all Muslims from entering the country and the ones currently living here should be entered into a database, he saw a massive rise in the polls. While other candidates like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush spoke out against such language, they had to find a way to show those voters they would protect them from the illusionary terrorist threat more than Trump would. Each candidate had their own plan to stop President Obama from letting any Syrian refugees into the country, even going as far to suggest we should only allow Christian refugees to enter the nation. 

On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Party is having its own riff. If you would have asked anyone a year ago who would be the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton would have been the answer without a thought. She was a shoe in, polls in states like New Hampshire had her winning the primary with ease and no real contender was in sight to challenge her ascension to the throne, figuratively speaking. 

Image: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Then entered Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. A well-known senator who was the only known socialist, albeit a democratic socialist, in congress and an independent. Sanders, who always caucused with the Democrats decided to run for president as a Democrat because the current two-party system would not have made a run as an independent possible. Sanders came in like a storm and pulled all the wind out of the Clinton campaign and challenged her on countless issues, bringing them to a virtual tie in the Iowa Caucus and seeing Sanders beat Clinton in New Hampshire, what was called a sure fire win for her, by multiple points; Sanders brought in over 60 percent of the Democratic votes in the state, a record for any presidential primary. 

Clinton and Sanders

Yet, unlike the Republicans, Clinton and Sanders don’t agree on as many issues are actually proposing two very different systems of governance in the country. Clinton is campaigning on the success of President Obama, his work to pass the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), bringing healthcare to millions of Americans who could not have afforded it before. Her strategy is to take Obama’s success and slowly build on it, progressively moving the country forward. 

Sanders, on the other hand, is proposing something he is calling a political revolution. He sees the success of the Obama administration and believes the country can do better, and questions the progressive policies of Clintons and wants to move forward much faster. 

Sanders has proposed two massive changes to the economy that Clinton has stood firmly against. First, Sanders wants to replace the Affordable Care Act with universal healthcare, following every other major industrialized nation around the world. Something Clinton says is just not possible, believing it is too expensive and that no congress will approve such a measure. She believes the more responsible thing to do is to continue to improve on Obamacare until someday it can be transitioned naturally into universal healthcare. Economists on the political left have argued the feasibility of Sanders plan, but the American people as a whole seem to support it. Clinton argues that Sanders wants to join the Republicans in demolishing Obamacare, but of course, Sanders argues this is not true. 

Secondly, Sanders wants to make all community and state colleges free for everyone. He believes that an educated workforce is good for the economy as it has been in many European nations. Like his healthcare plan, Sanders wants to pay for this by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, who up until now have relied on some very hefty tax breaks and contribute very little to the economy through taxation. Clinton says she agrees in part with Sanders plan and wants to open up some colleges to students, but not all. She has said that she does not believe children of someone like Donald Trump should get a free ride in a college. 

Her argument makes sense at face value, but ignores that many children like Trump’s choose to go to ivy league or other private schools and those would not be included as part of Sanders plan, his campaign argues. They also point out that if Trumps children wanted to go to community college, they, in fact, should be able to go free because families like his are actually helping pay for it. It would be unfair to exclude them. 

It’s worth mentioning here that both the healthcare plans and college plans put forward by Sanders and Clinton are opposed in whole by everyone running for the Republican ticket, showing just how great that divide really is. When asked what Trump would replace Obamacare with, he answers, “we will figure it out.” 

For Americans, the choices are pretty clear. The Republican Party is one of tight fiscal conservatism that often leaves the poor and underprivileged living without basic life amenities and believes that a free market will weed out the weak and allow the strong to prosper. Not to mention the major religious beliefs involved in the Republican Party as they also campaign on reversing the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, and fighting to overturn Roe v. Wade which was a Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. 

The Democratic Party voters also have a pretty clear line drawn. Clinton is offering them more of the same. If you’re happy with the country now and want to work little by little to keep moving it forward, she has made the case that she is the president for that. If a voter wants to see more revolutionary change and follow many of the economic models of democratic socialist countries in Europe, and want to see the country move in a new direct, than Sanders has made a strong case that he is the president for that. 

One thing is for certain; American voters have the decision to make that will affect the direction of the country for next four years, and the while the choices seem clear, the polls seem to suggest a country still divided. 

What do you think? Have your say in the comments below, and for more insight into the US elections, read other articles here.