My whole adult life has consisted of me believing that our political parties were pretty similar. I’ve always voted for an irrelevant candidate to ‘send a message.’ It surely wasn’t a loud message, but during elections people could write stories when votes for my candidate exceeded the margin of victory. There was the minor “if only we could have won over that demographic” tone that gave me some solace that there was a tiny message.
2020 was was the first time in my life that I voted for the candidate who won. The reason didn’t have much to do with policy positions. It really all started when Trump took office, and his negative tone around public schools and other topics continued as if he weren’t now the president. He’d publicly criticize the “failing public schools” as if he had no responsibility for fixing the problem. As time went on, his adversarial attitude towards the states took me aback. This is the President of the United States. Clearly this person didn’t believe that leading the whole country was part of the job description.
Here of course is where “sending a message” becomes a particularly laughable goal. The message I sent to this president wasn’t “I’d really like you to be more like this candidate” it was “you can count me out as one of your constituents.”
This is what scares me far more than any policy. These days, 70mm+ Americans are going to have voted for the losing candidate:
Those people count! They are nearly half of this country.
That’s problem #1. I will actively vote against any candidate who doesn’t believe half the country counts, even if I’d otherwise agree with them politically. It’s un-democratic.
Now problem #2… is this what people actually want? It’s my biggest fear. Political conversation on Facebook has gone toxic, and folks are splintering off into other platforms to talk amongst “like minded” individuals. They’re getting radicalized by our software systems. Is there any doubt that this behavior -literally separating ourselves from each other- will push people further into an us-versus-them, winner-take-all, with-us-or-against-us mentality?
To me, Biden sends the right message: compromise and unity. But, is that what Americans even want anymore? Is anyone else worried?