The protests have exposed one important thing that most news outlets are not giving a lot of attention to: political polarization is slowly starting to erode. That’s right – for the first time since the neo-cons came to power in the late 90s and early aughts, we are starting to see the long held political divide in this country start to unravel. We can only hope that it continues to do so and that the two major parties are not allowed to sway us back into our partisan corners.
In an Op-ed on The Hill, author John Kenneth White pointed to recent polls that suggested,
“…81 percent say the chokehold placed on Floyd was unjustified; 84 percent believe the resulting protests are justified; 80 percent think the nation is “out of control”; 59 percent are more concerned about unwarranted police actions than violent protestors; 57 percent believe police officers are more likely to use deadly force against African-Americans than whites; 65 percent say Trump’s response to the crisis has been harmful to race relations; and 55 percent want a president and Congress who “look for compromise and consensus” rather than division.”
What this reveals is that within the multiple crisis that have gripped our nation since February, the dividing line between the so-called left and right has been eroding as a pandemic has forced all of us into our homes for a prolonged period of time, the economic collapse as a result of the pandemic has indiscriminately hit at least 13% of our collective lives, and the killing of George Floyd and several others since him have induced a rally cry for reform in institutional norms held for hundreds of years. Basically, what has happened is a shared sense that the institution itself has failed us all in one form or another. That has led to what the numbers above show which is the beginning of the rejection of political lines in the sand.
What does this mean for November? At this point, there’s no telling. An article from the Washington Post this morning pointed to the unreliability of political polls this early in the election cycle, so the effects on the presidential race or any congressional races need to be taken with a grain of salt as the national attitudes will definitely change in the coming months.
But what is certain, and hopeful, is that there are finally signs that extreme partisanship is finally starting to show cracks in its armor. Maybe, hopefully, please dear God let it be so, we as a collective are finally changing the tide of political discourse in this nation from division to acceptance, and with this sea-change, maybe we can get rid of ALL the toxic partisan crap that has become routine over the past twenty years: cancel culture, political correctness, assault rifles, climate change denial, evangelical and green party extremism, and extreme trolling.
The thing about hope, though, is that in order for it to survive, it has to find actions that give it purpose. As we are now in the third week of protests, my only hope is that the movement continues to gather strength unlike the teachers and Parkland movements from the past few years that were slowly beaten back. Civil unrest needs to continue until REAL action is taken, and political partisanship needs to be left behind for that action to become actual change.