American politics rests on a pendulum. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, whether it be from the left or right. The 2016 election was a reaction to Obama’s eight-year presidency. The 2018 midterm election of more than one hundred women to the House of Representatives was a reaction to Trump’s ongoing presidency. And now, in an effort to keep the pendulum, and the 2020 election, from swinging to the left, we have our present political predicament: the sitting president asking a foreign leader to investigate a potential political rival, and stalling almost $400 million in aid leading up to their phone call. While the constant struggle for power between the two parties has been the norm for decades now, President Trump’s most recent move is a wildcard. It’s up to the House to vote on impeachment. And even if he is impeached, conviction by the Senate currently looks like a longshot.
The more clear and present danger we face today is the increasing division between the American people and the normalization of unethical politics. The president clearly violated ethical code with his actions, and condemning them should transcend political party. But as of Oct. 20, only 49.3 percent of Americans support impeachment according to polling site FiveThirtyEight, and of that slim majority, the partisan division is clear. While 84.8 percent of Democrats support impeachment, only 12.1 percent of Republicans do. It is evident that some Americans are unwilling to call out flagrant injustice when they see it, and in doing so, they may have lost some sense of moral self.
At this point in our political timeline, we must ask ourselves what exactly is the solution we are looking for in order to mend the ever widening gap between the American people. The iconic “have you no sense of decency” line, asked by lawyer Joseph Welch during the McCarthy hearings, seems outdated and ineffective given the blatant condonement, complacency and in some cases, compliance, of Republicans in Congress. Maybe in the 1970s the threat of impeachment could unite the American people over the general distrust of government (and of Richard Nixon), but now it only seems to encourage a general sense of distrust within the American people themselves. Would you feel comfortable asking your neighbor about whether or not they supported impeachment? What about your friends, or even your family? The harsh reality is in facing the fact that we must actively work to seek common ground both in times of triumph and tribulation.
The suggestion here is not that each American become a staunch centrist. To limit political freedom and thought would signify the certain downfall of our democracy. But with the growing problem of misinformation, it is easy to fall prey to undersaturated ideas like the “us vs. them” narrative. This is exceptionally true, and justified, in long standing histories of marginalized people being oppressed and wronged time and time again by those in power. But general disenfranchisement in 2019 is felt by all Americans, and it will take a lot of grit to overcome the barriers we’ve built to protect ourselves from the “other,” especially when we’ve been told our whole lives not to accept the differences, but the similarities we share as Americans.
President Trump’s election, actions and potential impeachment are simply catalysts in a much larger societal issue. The political pendulum is swinging far too fast, propelled by false narratives and a fear of the “other.” When we learn to embrace differences, reach out to our neighbors and listen to perspectives we may not typically hear in our daily lives, we become a more well-rounded people and in turn, a more well-rounded voting bloc. The 2020 election is steadily approaching, and with it comes the opportunity to begin the healing process our country desperately needs. Whoever sits in the Oval Office on election day may not be the same person that currently resides in it today. But whoever sits in the Oval Office on Jan. 20, 2021 is up to us — so long as we elect someone willing to keep our country together.