With the upcoming election only 70 days away, Americans are left with an important choice to make: Who to vote for.
We often ask people who they are voting for, but in today’s political climate, we should honestly be asking ourselves, “Who are we voting against?”
By no means am I arguing that we should be asking ourselves this; however, today’s electorate has transitioned from partisanship to negative partisanship.
This is bad as negative partisanship is voting for a party out of sheer disdain and hatred of the other team rather than a shared sense of purpose. Negative partisanship is defined as voters forming their political opinions primarily in opposition to political parties they dislike.
We saw this in the 2016 presidential election and are likely going to see it again this fall. Our president understands and has shaped his interaction with Congress around the concept that as long as the Republican base remains loyal to him, he is unlikely to face any serious challenge from House and Senate GOP members.
Trump also understands that the best way to keep the support of his base is by attacking the Democrats. With recent elections being characterized by unprecedented straight ticket voting and party loyalty, politicians are shifting more and more to negative partisanship.
In 2016, people rarely voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, they voted against the other party.
“I could never vote for Trump,” or “I do not trust Hillary so I guess that means I must vote for Trump,” were phrases commonly heard in 2016.
The same mentality of “Never Trump” and “Anything but the Socialist Democrats,” are becoming cornerstones of this year’s election, but even worse than the last cycle.
Not only does negative partisanship take out policy from the discussions of politics, but it also distracts from the actual problems that our political leaders are supposed to be solving.
There is a long-term danger to our democratic system as well. In today’s environment, politicians need only incite fear and anger toward the opposing party to maintain their power, rather than seeking to inspire voters around a cohesive and forward-looking vision.
In 2020, we must all vote for something, whatever it is: Climate change, tax reform, immigration control, defense spending, LGBTQ+ rights, etc. No candidate is perfect, and they all have flaws, but we must critically evaluate what they all are proposing.
Policy over politics is the way we preserve our democracy and the integrity of our political system.
You can dislike one candidate or a political party over another, but we should all want to vote for one person or party rather than just hate the “other guys.” The “other guys” are still Americans and we as Americans must figure out our problems: Negative partisanship being one of them.
We are a nation of diversity, discourse and resilience. We can overcome the effects of negative partisanship. However, it begins with us.