Polarization and the Pandemic

The polarization between Republicans and Democrats defines American politics. This polarization occurs because more and more Americans are identifying with their political party rather than with particular candidates or issues. Members of opposing parties generally dislike one another. In an article titled “America’s partisan fireworks will be hard for anyone to put out” by Ronald Brownstein, Alan Abramowitz stated that “long-term survey data shows that compared with the 1970s, voters in each party now hold much more negative views of the other party and its presidential nominee. That hostility, he argues, is rooted in these fundamentally clashing worldviews.” The polarization of today is more pronounced than that of the 1970s.

Today’s parties are defined by specific demographic and geographical lines, and there is a wide range of issues over which people are divided. The most recent example is the pandemic response. In his article “How Political Polarization broke America’s Vaccine Campaign,” German Lopez states that the polarization became more and more apparent because of the handling of the pandemic: “In March 2020, 33 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats said Covid-19 was a major threat to the health of the US, according to the Pew Research Center — a hint of early polarization. By July 2020, the gap had widened: 46 percent of Republicans saw Covid-19 as a threat to US health, versus 85 percent of Democrats.” Some areas have high vaccination rates while other parts of the country face high infection, and even death, rates. These divisions go back to the party lines of these geographical areas.

These views of Covid-19 and the vaccine have solidified, and there is no natural way of backtracking and changing the current trajectory of the Covid-19 response. Areas that are more democratic are more likely to have high vaccination rates, while more republican regions are more likely to have low vaccination rates. There were issues with both sides and how they decided to deal with the other side. Republican leaders undermined the seriousness of the coronavirus, while Democratic leaders cannot simply oppose some Covid-19 procedures because Republicans support them. In the future, the only thing to honestly hope for is that both sides will learn to depoliticize issues that do not need to be politicized in the first place. Debates over the Covid-19 response show more significant problems in America’s political system, and more needs to be done to foster bipartisanship.

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