If the 2016 United States Presidential Election taught me anything, it’s that a perfect answer is hard to find.
As a newly inducted voter living on a politically charged college campus, I felt the polarization of the election firsthand. The election was a constant topic of conversation, and the spike in aggression that occurred when people began talking politics was… overwhelming, to say the least.
Voters made their decisions based on things like political party affiliation, a single overarching issue such as abortion or immigration, or even simply their pure hatred of the opposing candidate. Everyone had an opinion, and everyone was certain that they were right.
Looking back, I don’t think anyone can claim total “rightness” during that time. The hatred and vitriol spread before and during the 2016 election emanated from both sides, and both sides had major flaws.
You’d think that we the people would have learned from our mistakes. You’d think we would realize that moving forward as a country requires the left and right to move forward together.
Lincoln knew this when he quoted the Bible to a group of hurting and broken people during his now-famous speech: “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
But it seems as though the United States has not learned its lesson in cooperation.
I see the same cycle beginning to repeat itself. The divide between the political left and right continues to widen, and it is easier to hate your (opposing) voter than love your neighbor.
Social media has become the place for people to express political opinions and fight out their differences publicly, often through the kind of horrifying language that only seems to exist on the internet.
The left and right continue to work against each other, and political sides have become, if anything, more deeply entrenched.
Neither side can claim total rightness. There seems to be very little moral high ground left to stand on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Opposition can be good and is necessary. It keeps both sides in check and ensures all viewpoints are considered. There will always be major differences between the left and the right, but if the United States wants to actually move forward, there needs to be some semblance of overarching unity.
Viewing people on the other side of the political spectrum as the enemy will only push this divide further and obliterate any hope of finding common ground.
If we want to heal as a nation—and I believe we are in desperate need of healing—we must heal together. This next election will determine a great many things, including whether we can step aside from our differences and vote in a president who will bring the two sides together instead of tear them apart.