The role of the government is to protect its citizens and civil interests, namely their rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness as well as personal possessions. It is an ideal that drove our small group of colonies to declare independence back in 1776 and, now, a common ground in a tumultuous political environment. Over the course of a few decades, partisanship in our country has become increasingly alarming.
As the election got closer, there was a sense of despondency – not necessarily in the naming of the newest president, but rather in knowing that electing either candidate will only drive this nation further apart.
So much disdain is held for members of the other party. People look past another’s character and see the world in two colors: red or blue. Moderacy hardly exists in this day and age, at least, it certainly feels that way.
As the election approached, people all around us made jokes that this election would cause America to burn to the ground, but they are spoken with much apprehension. Cities spent days with storefronts boarded up and increased police presents for fear of riots. No matter who our next president was going to be, people will be filled with hatred.
Abraham Lincoln once gave a speech a century and a half ago, famously observing that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Polarization in the country at the time of that speech was reaching a boiling point. One would expect a war as bloody as the Civil War to stave off disdain for an opposing political party.
Yet, every passing election, nomination, or debate feels like a shove towards that boiling point. The quote’s application of partisanship in this country still applies today.
Take, for example, the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In an attempt to gain control, the Republican Party fast-tracked her confirmation, despite two senators being diagnosed with coronavirus and countless others isolating as precaution.
In a party-line vote, the Republican majority approved her 52-48, which highlights the partisanship within the senate. Rarely are the votes harmonious. According to Pew Research, 64 percent of registered voters viewed Supreme Court appointments as influential to their voting decisions. The Senate’s rush to appoint Judge Barrett so close to the presidential may have impacted many votes for the presidential election.
Her confirmation brings valid concerns for the future of America. Since having been sworn in, the Supreme Court is now the most conservative it has been in approximately 70 years, with a six to three majority. Barrett’s seat on the bench could be an end to America as we know it, with huge discrepancies between upcoming rulings and any fallout from the 2020 election.
The day after the election, the Supreme Court heard a major case regarding private organizations using public funding’s rights to refuse services to a member of LGTBQ community. A week after the election the court will be hearing a case concerning the Affordable Care Act. Her role in these cases can be detrimental to, not only the public’s view of her, but also how American citizens view the Supreme Court overall.
In the past, Barrett has been vocal about her conservative beliefs in regard to abortion, healthcare and other civil rights cases the Supreme Court has ruled on. Her ideologies are extremely different from the person whose seat she is filling, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg opened countless doors in terms of gender equality with cases such as Roe v. Wade and Ledbetter V. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and was unapologetically vocal about access to affordable contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Barrett’s views starkly contrast these. On Oct. 14, her third day of confirmation hearings, she declined to answer a question from Delaware Sen. Chris Coons about whether the Supreme Court ruling that protects the right to buy and use contraception was correctly decided. However, she has been open with her opposition to both abortion and the ACA. In 2017 she published an article in which she said that Chief Justice John Roberts had “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
One of the biggest concerns within the rulings of the Supreme Court can be attributed to religious standing. Barrett’s position places her Catholic beliefs alongside five other Christian conservatives compared to the liberal wing of one Catholic and two Jewish – but all secularist – justices. Much of public concern now rests on whether or not Barrett can maintain jurisprudence.
Seventy-one percent of Americans already believe that elected officials do not care about their average citizens, and 59 percent are not satisfied with the way democracy is working in their country, according to polls conducted by Pew Research Center.
A lot rests on the hope that Barrett, as a new member of the Supreme Court, can put aside any religious bias and uphold the ideal this nation was founded upon, a separate state and church.
One of the most important things to be aware of as the results of the 2020 election play out alongside the important Supreme Court hearings is how these events are covered by the media.
The average American believes that the media has become just as polarized as the government, according to Pew Research Center. They found that 70 percent of U.S. adults distrust news sources, believing that they hold bias.
With the general consensus that our government is too busy arguing amongst themselves to achieve anything, it is far too easy to rely on the subjective reports of media outlets such as Fox News – which has been deemed the least accurate cable news source by PolitiFact. Reports like these can create a sense of learned helplessness, like nothing we do can help political parties compromise.
But we can. Always make sure that you are cross-referencing sources and doing your own in-depth research. Check the credibility of information you hear, and do not believe every single post shared on social media.
Encourage productive debate. Do not go into a conversation about politics with the assumption you are going to get someone to change their perspective. Reaching a common ground can be just as effective because you still got them to listen to a different point of view.
Do not wait until the next election to begin following politics. Make it a goal to keep up with events at least once a week. The only way we can make a change is by staying informed. Hopefully, a greater investment in American politics will also mean a greater investment in ending extreme partisanship within our country.