Is the American public finally fed up with the toxicity of our current political climate? Over the past few years, tensions between Americans on both sides of the political divide have increased exponentially, and it does not appear that the animosity will subside anytime soon. No doubt you have noticed the de-evolution of political discourse in America, and as you read this post, you will learn that many others have as well.
The rhetoric being spewed by individuals on both sides has become dangerous, and the increase in political violence has caused many to predict another civil war. Marriages have ended over political disagreements. People have cut off friends and family members for having different opinions or supporting certain candidates.
Republicans and Democrats seem to be at each other’s throats, shouting at each other in the streets, brawls breaking out at political events, and slamming one another on social media. But do the individuals engaging in this pernicious behavior represent the majority of Americans? A recent study indicates that they may not.
Scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon conducted a study titled “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” in which they examined the polarization between American conservatives and progressives. They analyzed opinions on a variety of different issues including political correctness, immigration, sexual harassment, and more. Some of the results were surprising.
But one of the study’s findings may not be so shocking:
“This is the message we’ve heard from more than 8,000 Americans in one of our country’s largest-ever studies of polarization: We hold dissimilar views on many issues. However, more than three in four Americans also believe that our differences aren’t so great that we can’t work together.”
The scholars grouped Americans into seven categories. These include:
- Progressive Activists
- Traditional Liberals
- Passive Liberals
- Politically Disengaged
- Traditional Conservatives
- Devoted Conservatives
Devoted conservatives and progressive activists represent individuals who are furthest to the right and the left, respectively. Some might assume that the majority of Americans fall into both extremes, but the opposite is true. Progressive Activists make up 8% of the population while Devoted Conservatives represent 6%.
Put simply, most of us are not on the fringe ends of our political beliefs. Indeed, 86% of the American public fall somewhere in the middle. The report refers to these individuals as the “Exhausted Majority.” The authors of the study describe this group as people who are “fed up with the polarization plaguing American government and society.” Moreover, these are individuals who are not often noticed because they are not as loud as those on the fringes.
Most importantly, the report states that individuals who are part of the Exhausted Majority “believe we can find common ground.”
If you are a frequent user of social media, it might be difficult to believe that there are people who prefer productive dialogue over the usual ad hominem attacks. But we do exist, and we truly are exhausted.
Those of us who identify with the Exhausted Majority are tired of the animosity. People on the left are likely sick and tired of the constant identity politics and political correctness. On the right, many conservatives are fed up with the culture of conspiracy theories and “owning the libs.”
And we have had enough of the echo chambers constantly finding new ways to make us outraged.
The Exhausted Majority is made up of individuals who wish for a return to normalcy. We want to go back to an America where people on the left and the right can have heated and spirited debates without hating each other.
It’s like you want to be the adult in the room, but you wonder if your pleas for rational discourse will fall on deaf ears. Given the state of our political climate, becoming disillusioned is understandable. But if this study is any indication we are the majority.
It is easy to assume that our enemies are on the other side of the aisle — and sometimes this is true. But our true opponents are those who wish to sow more discord with their rhetoric. Instead of finding areas of common ground, they seek to demonize those with whom they disagree. If you’re reading this, you already know that this type of conduct could be more dangerous than our political disagreements.
If the Exhausted Majority were to speak louder, we could drown out those who want to divide us further. The fringes of the right and left are loud, but they are merely a vocal minority. If we are willing to speak out as loudly as the fringe, our voices will prevail.
Healing the division in our society is essential to our survival. If we allow the tension to grow, we will see more division, more fear, more hate, and in the end, more violence. Both sides are responsible for the condition of our society, which means it will take people on both sides to mend the wound.
We will always have disagreements. We will always see things differently. But most of the issues on which we disagree should not spawn the type of hatred we see today. While we engage in debate, we should also focus on repudiating those who foment outrage and violence. If we fail in this regard, we could see the civil war that many have predicted.
Originally published on The Culture Beat
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