There’s a plague sweeping the nation: disillusionment. Americans are disappointed in their government and concerned about the future for their families and communities. The country is as politically divided as it’s ever been in modern times.
As the political fabric of the country frays, it behooves each political party to reflect on how it can address Americans’ concerns. Political parties should actively promote the values held dear by their voters. Politicians should avoid drama and distraction and should fulfill their promises to their constituents.
Party leaders and politicians don’t shoulder the entire burden for correcting our political environment, though. Individuals should also strive to live their values, engage constructively in their communities, and reflect on how they can bring about the changes they wish to see in society.
America is strongest when its citizens come together to achieve common goals. Liberals, in particular, can seize their power to unite in four distinct ways:
- By remembering the roots of liberalism and promoting the common good;
- By choosing information sources carefully and thoughtfully;
- By finding common ground within their party, especially when running for office;
- And by respecting political diversity within the party and outside of it.
By promoting unity at a divisive time, liberals stand to gain power and, more importantly, affect change for America.
Liberalism defined: the party’s power to unite
The United States, and the world, have undergone rapid change in recent years. Attitudes are changing about everything from gay marriage to immigration law to international trade, and sharing ideas is easier than ever thanks to modern technology.
The liberal and conservative parties are struggling in different ways to keep up with the changes and represent the growing diversity of the electorate. For the liberal party, the struggle lies in uniting moderate liberals with the far-left, and presenting a unified message in campaigns and on divisive topics.
But despite the difficulty of adapting in the face of rapid change, many of the changes sweeping the country work to the advantage of the liberal party and may help the party grow.
For example, modern liberalism is characterized by creating strong social support systems that lead to a more equitable society.
As many Americans become more familiar with the nuances of equity and more committed to equity as a principle, they’ll find that liberalism reflects their beliefs. The liberal party can not only promote equity, but can welcome those who wish to better understand what it means to live in an equitable society.
Modern liberalism is also committed to freedom of expression and minimal government interference in personal and social issues.
As alternative lifestyles and identities become more commonplace, Americans may be drawn to the liberal party for its acceptance of differences and its emphasis on personal freedoms. Liberals can unite over the role the government should play in protecting personal freedom and managing the consequences citizens face for living alternative lifestyles.
The fast pace of change in Americans’ attitudes toward personal liberties, government responsibility, and social justice sets up the liberal party for growth. Liberals can capitalize on increasingly progressive sensibilities to unite Americans behind strong policy narratives and genuine, compassionate efforts to affect change.
News media’s role in promoting unity
Between 24-hour news channels like CNN and Fox News, “breaking news” alerts from smartphone apps, and near-constant Internet access in daily life, it’s no wonder many Americans feel like political drama permeates their lives. But as important as it is to keep up with politics, news cycles can be harmful, too.
It’s the responsibility of news media to use responsible and constructive reporting practices, just as it’s the responsibility of consumers to reward responsible news outlets with their viewership and readership. News media can promote national unity and bolster communities when it’s driven by a culture of thoughtfulness and curiosity rather than a culture of outrage and division.
Unfortunately, in most modern media outlets, political journalism is strategic. Newscasters and copywriters intend not just to share news, but also to increase revenue and push political agendas.
Normal events are dramatized to increase clicks and views, biased reporting sways public opinion, and balanced, responsible reporting is hard to find. Americans have the power to push back on these news outlets and should give their attention to fair, balanced, accurate reporting whenever possible.
Minor events shouldn’t be dramatized
When media consumers are riled up about the news, media outlets can increase their revenue. This is why minor events involving topics people are passionate about are ushered to the front page. Dramatic or inflammatory headlines increase clicks, purchases, and shares, and the increased traffic and viewership results in more revenue. Meanwhile more important – but less lucrative — news is often pushed to the back.
For example, if a gun was found in a local student’s backpack, a news outlet might emphasize that story rather than news of a major municipal investment that will change thousands of lives. It might even dramatize the story to stir up emotions. Few people are passionate about local governance, but many people are passionate about gun control and gun rights, and media plays to the interests of its audience.
When minor events are dramatized in the news, people’s lives are adversely affected. Stress, concern, and fear can all increase as a result of political news, and can ultimately impact how people vote and engage in civic life.
Media bias leads to skewed viewpoints
Many of the country’s most popular news outlets present biased views of current events. In some cases, these outlets’ owners have special interests they’re seeking to serve by promoting biased viewpoints. In other cases, the bias serves to increase engagement among a segment of consumers, thereby increasing revenue.
For busy consumers, it can be hard to determine which news outlets are presenting fair, balanced news, and which are biased. Many people choose to follow one or two news outlets and are rarely exposed to alternative presentations of the news. As a result, their understanding of American politics is incomplete at best and incorrect at worst.
With a growing number of news outlets presenting biased news, and a growing number of Americans consuming this information, there are big implications for the country’s future. Voting tendencies are changing, community relations are becoming strained, and public policy is affected as a result.
Due diligence should be expected
Responsible journalism requires careful research. To present accurate, trustworthy news, a news outlet should do its due diligence before publishing information, and should clearly denote opinion pieces.
With an increased focus on generating revenue and providing nearly instantaneous information to readers and viewers, many media outlets aren’t fact-checking or doing adequate research before publishing information. This short-changes consumers, who trust the outlets they’re getting news from, and leads to the spread of potentially damaging misinformation and confusion.
Promoting unity through responsible reporting
By consuming more accurate and balanced media, consumers improve their own understanding of political news and current events and they bolster responsible journalism. Responsible journalism, in turn, minimizes the culture of outrage and promotes civil discourse and unity.
Liberals can lead by example in how they consume news, calling out bad reporting, doing their own research, and being honest with themselves and their neighbors about what’s happening in the country.
2020 candidates can find common ground
As candidates for the 2020 general election vie for the liberal party’s nomination, there are three themes Americans can see play out through the course of the election season. These themes represent common ground for the candidates and for liberal voters.
Focusing on Displacing Trump in the 2020 Election
The candidates seeking out the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination have different approaches to how they would solve the country’s problems. From economic policy to immigration to national security, voters have many stances to consider as they determine who will win their vote.
However, there’s one thing all the candidates have in common, and it’s a consistent theme in their campaign speeches, on the debate stage, and in their campaign marketing: they’re trying to convince voters they’re the candidate who can displace Trump as the president.
Liberal voters are looking for a party nominee who can win in 2020 and make important changes in Washington for the next four years.
Appealing to Marginalized Populations
Most pundits and scholars point to apathy and lack of buy-in by marginalized and minority voters in the 2016 general election as one of the primary reasons Hillary Clinton was unable to beat Donald Trump. While the Democratic Party considers itself the “party of the people,” many voters consider liberal politicians too elite and out of touch to represent them in the White House.
Candidates racing for the party’s nomination for the 2020 election are clearly cognizant of what these American voters are looking for in a candidate and are making their best efforts to come across as genuine, approachable, down-to-earth, and sympathetic to the struggles many American’s deal with as they work to build better lives and overcome difficulty.
Balancing “Playing Nice” with Slinging Mud
As in any election season, candidates must walk a fine line between “playing nice” with their competitors and slinging mud, or bringing their competitors down, to increase their odds of winning.
With the country as politically divided as ever, it’s important that the candidates show unity with the Liberal Party. They must be collegial, collaborative, and show that they’re willing to reach across the aisle to get things done. If they come across as aggressive and negative, they stand to lose votes from people who are frustrated by the nastiness in American politics.
Conversely, the candidates know that mudslinging – pointing out the flaws and shortcomings of their opponents in ads and speeches – work. Their campaign staff must look at public opinion data to determine how to attack the other candidates and how those attacks will be perceived, but they’re sure to rely on this tactic more as the pool of candidates has slimmed down.
Rallying Behind the Party’s Choice
Liberal political candidates are focused on establishing their electability over Trump, giving lots of attention to minorities and other marginalized populations that make up an important proportion of the vote, and operating campaigns that carefully balance positive, solution-oriented messages with mudslinging against their opponents.
In the end, it’s almost certain that liberal candidates will rally behind the party’s choice for the 2020 election. It’s up to the electorate to unify behind the winning candidate to win the election and affect change in through the next administration.
Respecting political diversity in the 2020 election cycle
Perhaps the most critical piece of all to unifying the country is learning to respect political diversity.
It’s clear that shutting down or condemning the beliefs of others increases division, bad feelings, and bad outcomes for everyone. By contrast, learning to respect diversity of opinion allows for all parties to feel heard and validated, and helps diverse groups come together to achieve their goals.
America is an incredibly diverse nation, and for some, this diversity may mean that respecting the opinions of others and understanding their needs and motivations is challenging. This challenge can feel acute during a presidential election cycle, when so much is at stake and winning the election feels like the ultimate goal.
It’s important, though, that both individuals and political candidates respect diversity during election season – including during the divisive and dramatic 2020 presidential campaign. By promoting civil dialogue, prioritizing national security, and working to strengthen the political system, candidates and voters alike can show that they value the diversity of belief in America.
Respecting political diversity by promoting civil dialogue
One of the reasons it’s important to respect political diversity is to allow for productive dialogue between political parties and even between members of the same party whose opinions and values differ.
Civility and open conversation seem to be lost arts, as most political discussions result in division and animosity, but we know that change is only possible if we step outside our comfort zone to understand others. By engaging in civil dialogue, it’s possible to open minds to new ideas and to socialize those ideas, so they’re familiar concepts if and when they become part of the national dialogue.
Politicians and individuals can promote progress and unity by “reaching across the aisle” in their conversations and by understanding the viewpoints and feelings of other while sharing their own.
Maintaining national safety and security
Another reason it’s important to respect political diversity is to maintain safety. While difference of opinion is healthy, it’s important that we can stand united against threats to our safety, security, and well-being as a nation.
Respecting our differences, rather than dividing over them, helps our defense systems stay strong and effective. The future of liberalism, republicanism, and the country depend on strong, effective defense, and it’s important that liberal voters and leaders prioritize safety alongside freedom of speech and other civil liberties.
Strengthening our political system
Political diversity is critical to a well-functioning government and is one of the hallmarks of the United States as a representative democracy.
Our lawmakers represent their diverse constituents whose experiences of the world inform their voting habits and ideologies. The result is richer policies that lawmakers and citizens believe are worth fighting for, and that are improved through the iterative, bipartisan legislative process.
Voters and citizens, too, should embrace the diversity of their communities and understand that lawmakers must reconcile their policies and rhetoric with the many needs and opinions of their constituents.
The future of liberalism relies on political diversity to fortify our nation’s political system. Whatever the outcome of the 2020 election cycle, the winning candidate will have greater respect and will be more effective if they respect political diversity and embrace the variety of viewpoints held by the people they represent.
Coming together as a party and a nation
By taking a circumspect, informed, and thoughtful approach to solving problems and overcoming differences, liberals can come together as a party and help reunite the nation by gaining universal respect.
Individuals within the liberal party must lead the way in reflecting on liberal values, staying informed, finding common ground with others, and respecting America’s political diversity. These values and practices, adopted at a grassroots level, will “trickle up” to influence communities, leaders and lawmakers, and even news media.
In time, the national paradigm will shift from one of political apathy, avoidance, and frustration, to one of civic engagement and progress. But this relies on individuals, communities, and the nation coming together with a unified vision for the future and determination to work together to make the country better.