The Polarizing Effect of a Presidential Election

By Gregory Kallenberg |

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets mad when I’m watching the presidential debates. The candidates’ puerile anger and teenager-style bickering can be maddening (though, admittedly, highly entertaining). But while most of my friends seem to be angry because their candidate is getting attacked or the views of an opposing candidate seem to be a personal affront, my ire comes from a different place. My disdain for these events and, heck, the entire election this year is that the polarization of these candidates (even within their own parties) has proved out the fact the polarization breeds stasis and stasis makes it impossible to create and progress towards a productive dialogue and, ultimately, a solution to a problem.

Presidential candidates duke it out.

In recent Republican and Democratic debates, I was astounded to hear how much time was spent determining which candidates were more “progressive” (for the Democrats) or who was the “true conservative” (on the Republican side). Instead of talking about issues and how one would lead, the candidates argued on and one about how their “progressiveness” or their “conservatism” made them more valid. It was somewhat sickening to see how much time they wasted framing every issue from one side of the ideological barricade or the other.

The Rational Middle has always stood by the fact that we need to move past our differences, sit at the table and work on real solutions. These solutions aren’t always easy to come by and often include compromise. We’ve seen advocates from extreme sides of an issue come together and start a process that has, ultimately, lead to solving a problem. I know that the Rational Middle isn’t always a comfortable place. I’m sure it must be easier to stand in a place where everyone only sees one side of the issue, and is unmoving in their mindset. The issue is that the taking this position paralyzes the process of solving a challenge. These debates have proven the point by these candidates essentially repeating their attacks on one another debate after debate — stuck in their own feedback loop and myopic rhetoric.

Sanders and Clinton go after  each other.

In the end, what I want to hear is how these candidates are going to change things and make things better. I am deeply interested in how our next president is going to create a comprehensive energy plan (one that’s sustainable, affordable and environmentally sensitive). Aside from energy, I want to hear how they have the ability to create a Rational Middle around healthcare, gun control, education and finance reform. I’m tired of the bickering and the name-calling and grandstanding. What I want is for a candidate to separate themselves, show they can come to the middle ground, include all of us and build a great nation.

 

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