Politics is a party game — and we’re taking the fall for it.
After watching the first 2020 presidential debate, I felt disappointed and helpless. With candidates seemingly more interested in commenting on one another’s personal characteristics than policy proposals, it’s clear that party affiliation has transcended a simple preference in governance. Extreme political polarization has driven us away from constructive conversation and created a divide in our country, one we must address if we want to have any hope for the future.
Our affinity for polarization is simply human nature. People crave inclusion, and within a party's ideological bounds, many find a sense of belonging. Once affiliated with a party, one’s desire to maintain their connection to the group encourages them to defend their alignment and follow the group's lead to maintain harmony.
Red flags look less drastic when those in your party are unfazed by them. In an effort to avoid rocking the boat, group members often justify and tolerate extreme opinions of party members, which can lead to the normalization of increasingly radical political figures.
After aligning with a party, we engage in confirmation bias, which furthers our entrenchment. We expect our political party to reflect certain values, and we expect the opposing political party to act in ways inconsistent with those values, seeking examples that reflect these expectations. By constantly looking for (and inevitably finding) examples that confirm our suspicions, we become increasingly devoted to our affiliated party, and naturally, opposed to the other.