Political Support Today: An Armchair Ethics Post

To look at the political supporters today as an objective outside observer, the immediate description would be a deepening polarization from those opposing, fueled by a new ability in the form of computer algorithms to deliver only content that fits and supports an existing view. Furthermore, it is seen that this polarization has turned violent from both sides and general discourse along with points of agreement has all but disappeared. If this state of affairs was seen in a developing country, it would rightly be said that the path to civil strife and internal conflict has begun with there being only signs of it continuing and escalating.

Both the right and the left are culpable in this polarization. While the right has ignited historical prejudices as a means to garner support and only fanned that anger to enact their sweeping reforms and policies, the left has by-and-large for many years ignored the right and belittled or pushed outside politics, the views that differ from their own. Examples of both include President Trump’s hate filled rhetoric during rallies, and late-night televisions decision to satirize and ridicule the rights views rather than try to engage in qualified discourse. It is easy to say in support of the left that to engage in discussions with clearly bigoted views provides those views with credence. That response however is not productive and furthers the division. To those who support the right, some proponents would argue that these are indeed elitists who care nothing of the common person and only their set agenda. Those on the left might say these views are compassionate and inclusive of everyone and therefore there is an element of universality to it. The problem is not that someone aligns themselves with the right or left, it is that no longer are the other party’s values and beliefs considered valid and even more worrisome, safe to hold.

What has happened in just the past five to six years is that the polarization has become not a matter of values and beliefs that may differ, but many of those turning violent in protest are in the mindset that it is fundamentally dangerous for the country for the other party to lead. This is an extreme but real view of many from both sides and perhaps the most frightening aspect of the political supporters today. Boiling down to the rights of the individual, both sides have strong beliefs, and perhaps not unfounded, that the other side will at the first opportunity take away strongly held and desired rights of the individual. No longer therefore is politics simply a passive matter that many once believed held no affect on their daily lives. It is quite the opposite now, with far more taking part in voting having been told by talking heads from either party that the very future of one’s existence depends on it. With more at stake and less dialogue the elements are ripe for significant conflict.

Neither the right nor the left are innocent from taking matters into quasi-vigilante actions both large and small through which political inclinations are expressed and a sense of belonging and having served a greater purpose are felt. We see this in the activities of far-right groups, along with the far-left groups both of which frequently display action that support a political side although do so in a legally questionable approach. These actions which are far from what could be said to be political rallies rather than outlawed protests, are now becoming the norm in terms of how to show support for political views. The time where political ideas were debated in clubs and amongst friends is disappearing. The views which were once not radically different have slowly become so by means of algorithms only showing supporting media from the last few clicked on, which is increasingly more radicalized media that is cheap to produce. The idea now that someone could talk to the opposing party and come to see eye to eye, is worryingly becoming improbable. More radicalized and emboldened elements in both parties with strong passions to seek large and quick changes in policy are influencing and drowning out moderate positions pushing the two ideological needles further in opposite directions.

Everyone who has seen the immediate actions of the past two incoming President’s of the United States should be concerned. Whereas President Trump set the example with sweeping unilateral Executive Orders, President Biden has followed suit and to a greater extent. The mechanism of Executive Orders is being used in a manner for which it was not intended and the discontinuation of this approach to its use should be a top priority for both parties’. If in four years Donald Trump returns, will he again sign countless Executive Orders undoing Bidens work and creating the beginnings of a disastrous cycle?

Perhaps most problematic in this arena is that those with moderate voices living everyday lives are having to safely navigate between the radicalized elements on both sides and are unwillingly being pulled into the conflict between the more radicalized elements. These individuals want a return to sanity in politics today and general society who feel they cannot be outspoken about how matters have gone too far and politicians are catering too much to the loudest supporting voices not the most rational supporting. The average worker today does not want to be told they are damaging and hurtful of another person merely for not being “woke”, or from the other side do not want to be seen as not onboard the team by not standing up for some hate filed agenda that pits populations against one another. A balance between the two must made be possible. Achieving this requires a dialogue that does not involve accusatory language as a start.

In the past when politics was an activity for just a few and wide engagement from the population was scarce, passions about political parties was not at the level we see today as for example only ten years ago. It was not seen to the same extent that a political party newly taking power could shape in significant ways parts of your everyday life. However, with the advent of social media news reaching people on an hourly basis if not more so, political stories and views easily find themselves becoming dominant news stories followed as if it were entertainment. Coupling political alignment with strong emotions is a tactic used to keep power as it creates strong allegiance. It does today, however, also cause a side effect whereby all to often the individual takes on responsibility for continual advocacy of the views and beliefs of the party. Facebook posts, Tweets, replies, have become a daily chore of radicalized and fervent supporters taking it upon themselves to do in order to respond to opposing views. While several years ago effort was made to teach people that online is the same as offline, offline has now become reflective of the dialogue that was online. It is divisive and at times very derogatory.

When supporting your politician used to mean taking her or his side in the off discussion you would have once a week, there was little worry someone would get “wrapped up in it”. Today though discussion and dialogue via social media is continuous. We receive notifications that we respond to frequently. This level of engagement has not yet before been seen and is causing strengthened alignments and emboldened supports who border on the obsessed. This continuous discussion and dialogue though is not comprised for the most part of inputs from both sides. Someone who is on the left no longer gets media from the right, and the opposite is equally true. There is now a continuous indoctrination of sorts into either political camp. This indoctrination is not regulated in anyway, contributors can be any random person with a few dollars, time, and an internet connection, and is rarely if ever done by a moderate voice from either side. To avoid further division between supporters of the right and the left today, increased dialogue that begins without accusatory language should be initiated and regulation of independent media should be greatly expanded to include online sources.

Looking at political supporters today a polarization that is only deepening is seen. With emotions involved far more than in the past, and the continuous social media indoctrination of those into ridged political camps, a real fear is that a cycle of swinging policies will become a normal practice until this division, polarization, ends.