It appears the political divide in this country is getting wider. There used to be Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans. However, as time has worn on and the passionate bases of each party became more vocal, it is increasingly rare to find individuals who would be classified as pro-gun Democrats or pro-choice Republicans. They still exist, but as echo chambers widen and people get their news from highly-specialized sources targeting their message towards audiences with increasingly-narrowing ideals, it is very difficult to find balanced, well-argued points from the opposition.
For example, it’s likely that a large section of the readers of this particular paper get their information from FOX News, the New York Post, conservative talk radio, or Ben Shapiro. Those of you who fall into this camp are bombarded with constant reasons to be pro-life, pro-gun, anti-universal-healthcare, and a bevy of other classic conservative talking points. Rarely do you hear the reasoning on the other side. The same can be said for those who turn to The New York Times, CNN, Huffington Post, and Pod Save America. This side generally only hears arguments contrary to the aforementioned topics, without hearing any opposition. And if any opposition is ever offered, it is introduced negatively by the presenting side and dismissed immediately with one reason or another. The specialization instills homogeny among audiences, thus widening the political gap.
But this is not exclusive to ideals. It is very much linked with how individuals view the opposing party. Because there are no longer Conservative Democrats and Liberal Republicans, the media will often portray one side as always in the wrong and the other side as always in the right - depending on which outlet you get your news. For instance, if you are tuning into Fox News, you will likely hear about how the Democrats in Washington have abandoned any attempts for negotiation and will ram through as many bills as they want while they have a majority in the House and the Senate, while they describe Texas Democratic legislators as having a dereliction of their duties by walking out on a vote on a state bill, thus vetoing a law by not having a quorum as required by state law. If read the New York Times, you would learn about the Senate Republicans who will not budge an inch on negotiations, making them impossible to reason with, and Texas Democrats who stood up against racist laws. There is never any chance of hearing why the other side is doing what they are doing, saying what they are saying, or voting the way they are voting. Everything has to have evil intentions behind it; otherwise, the argument against it will never be as strong as it really needs to be to appeal to the targeted audience.
It is therefore no wonder why people across the country are constantly of the mindset of “I don’t understand how you could vote for Candidate X or Party Y. How could you vote for someone who believes in this horrible thing?” The truth is that a party that is above reproach does not exist in this country. It does not exist anywhere in the world; yet somehow there are people out there who will defend “their” party at all costs, never criticizing it more than the occasional “well they aren’t fighting as hard as they should be.” Meanwhile, they will lay the blame of all the problems in the country on the opposing party, since they are viewed as the be-all and end-all of evil.
Never was this more evident than during the recent battle between Israel and Hamas and the resulting antisemitic violence that spread throughout America. It is not a stretch to say that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews are firmly of the belief that Hamas shares most - if not all - of the blame for the recent military actions in Israel. The outrage from the Israel supporters came against members of the left wing of the Democratic Party (you know who this is referring to) who somehow demonized Israel throughout all of this. People who are generally supportive of the Democratic Party had to remain silent, or in some cases even attempt somehow to defend this rhetoric. However, during this same time period, Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene decided to release some fresh antisemitism of her own. This forced those on the Right to defend the embattled Representative, or at least make the “well she’s not as bad as…” argument.
And for what? Why do people feel the need to defend the bad individuals on their “own side” even when no defense is warranted? Why is it so difficult for many to criticize those who agree with them on most areas, yet deserve ridicule in others? It is because society is being increasingly conditioned to understand that their side has the exclusive claim to morality, and giving in even a tiny fraction may open the door enough to sway opinion of some undecideds. So we retreat to our sides and allow extremism to dominate.
If you have ever uttered or thought the phrase, “I don’t know how you could ever vote for ___,” then you are part of the problem. Those who vote for someone who you think is reprehensible have to be granted the assumption that they weighed the pros and cons of a particular candidate, and perhaps for you the cons outweighed the pros, but for them, it was reverse. It is sad that this even has to be said, but that is how politics need to happen. Just because someone votes Republican does not make them complicate in the entire Party’s platform, which is just the same as someone who votes Democrat. It’s probably a pipe dream at this point, but if we could all understand that, perhaps there could be a lot less disdain in society.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.