Midterm reflection: A sharply divided nation

Jess Kaplan, Opinions Editor

In the weeks leading up to the midterm elections, President Donald Trump simultaneously asserted that he was not responsible for a Republican defeat, but he should be credited if the Republicans won. With the results tallied on Nov. 6, Trump sort of achieved both claims: Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives, but the blue wave they had aimed for fell short of expectation; Republicans expanded their power in the Senate, but they lost key gubernatorial and house races.

Midterm elections have traditionally been a referendum on the majority party and more specifically the president. Yet, these midterm elections were of historic significance as parties exploited the identity division that catapulted Trump to the White House. Democrats harnessed the fury of women, people of color, and younger generations, whereas Republicans continued to target the “forgotten” working-class voters in middle America who suffer economic and political inequity. The power of identity politics was indisputable in the results: both sides have fundamentally different visions of the future of America. The inconclusiveness of these election results magnify the current dysfunction and polarization of American politics.

In evaluating the midterm results, it is clear that America’s polarization no longer falls cleanly along state lines; it has infected state dynamics across county and town borders alike. The stark divisions were the most apparent in the Florida state-wide elections: Democrats saw remarkable voter turnout within Latino and upper-middle class voting districts, but poorer and less educated districts only a few miles away were heavy with Republican voters.

Upon achieving control of the House, Democrats have set two goals: the first task at hand is to pass legislation that furthers the Democratic platform, such as reforming campaign financing and reducing the cost of health care. The second is to keep the Trump Administration in check by exposing its fraud and preventing the ratification of any significant conservative legislation. However, as Republicans continue to maintain control over the Senate and shift politically further towards the right, the ability of Democrats to push policy to the left will be limited.

The future of American politics is now at a crossroads: will America be able to overcome the identity divide? Is it possible to cooperate with the other political side to overcome non-partisan national epidemics, some of which include the opioid crisis, the broken education system, and the seemingly irreparable trade deficit? The answer is still unclear. The acute political divide is a potent, self-reinforcing obstacle. If each side is wholly committed to identity-driven policy, compromise and unification will be nearly impossible. In order to truly make America great again, we need to push past our differences.

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