Matt Venezia is a sophomore biology major with a minor in writing.
After the past four years of political division and then the 2020 presidential election, we have seen countless renditions of how the nation is divided between Republicans and Democrats. Whether it is an election map being constantly monitored by ABC News, or a pundit describing red states as having fewer COVID-19 deaths than blue states, the division is pretty clearly defined as red versus blue.
Based on these portraits of our nation, one would think that the American people are extremely divided on the most contentious issues: abortion, healthcare, clean energy, undocumented immigrants. In reality, there is a lot of agreement on the basic tenets of many of these issues that are hotly debated in politics. Overall, we are not all as divided on the issues that seem to separate us as a nation as we think. It is mostly politics in name, not in differences of opinion that cause our nation’s bitter division.
Take healthcare for example. This would appear to be one of the most contentious issue in American politics. President Donald Trump and top Republicans have promised to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare (Affordable Care Act), yet have offered no substantive replacement. On the other side of the aisle, most high-ranking Democrats fight to expand the coverage of the Affordable Care Act or implement a government insurance plan that covers all citizens. Most candidates express one of these two views.
In reality, about 69% of the American public, including 46% of Republicans, favor a government insurance plan that covers every citizen, including Medicare for All, according to an article published by Newsweek.
Other mainstream issues, including clean energy, abortion rights and immigration reform, see a similar divide between government action and the will of the American people.
Around 61% of Americans support legal abortion in all or most cases and only 20% believe that abortion should be illegal, yet the issue remains contentious. Part of the Republican party platform for 2020 calls for repealing Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973. This position on the case represents less than a third of Americans’ beliefs. A major division comes mainly when defining ourselves as either pro-life or pro-choice. The division between pro-life and pro-choice Americans has led to demonstrations and protests, heated debates and shaming women for exercising a legal right.
As far as undocumented immigrants (another hotly contested issue on Fox News and in the U.S. government), three out of four Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for all, including a majority of Republicans. This number is even greater when it comes to undocumented immigrant children. The main division on the issue comes when Americans support either Trump, who has a history of xenophobia, or President-Elect Joe Biden, who intends to push back on anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Very often, we refuse to accept that a fellow citizen supports a candidate who clashes with our own identities. We still ignore the fact that we most likely agree on basic tenants of the issues we are arguing.
As citizens of the United States, we have some basic agreement on many of the prevalent issues debated in our government. Our true division comes when we try to align ourselves with either the Democratic or Republican party, believing that a single candidate represents all of his or her voters or label ourselves as pro-life or pro-choice.
Moving forward after these past four years of division, there must be an attempt to reach out to the other side of the aisle. We have to realize that our core beliefs are largely similar on broad issues like Medicare for all, or undocumented immigrants, before jumping to any conclusions and beginning an argument.
We as citizens have to look for common ground in the years ahead. With a new presidency comes opportunity; maybe not for a lot of new legislation, but for a change in tone and an acceptance of one another. It might be easier than it seems.