Commentary: America the Divided

The 2016 Election and a Country That is in a Crossroads

by Steven Morris

Here we are. The inevitable is now present. Presented to us are two candidates, one who was considered a frontrunner before the election cycle even began, and another who’s Presidential bid was thought of as a side show.

This election has been filled with twists and turns, borderline unbelievable quotes, massive protests and a candidate who openly ran as a “Democratic Socialist.”

Alas, America has chosen its two candidates: Donald Trump, from the Republican Party and Hillary Clinton, from the Democratic Party.

However, there’s something wrong. In almost every presidential race there has been unified support for each candidate. President Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, President George W. Bush (in his first term) and John F. Kennedy, are just a few examples; each party had unified support for their candidate.

Except this time, there is a lack of unified support for both the Republican and the Democratic candidate. This has led to some startling news: For the first time in modern American politics the two candidates for President are both strongly disliked by significant portions of the electorate.   

A poll on FiveThirtyEight, a data driven news outlet, which was conducted by the Roper Center and IBD/TPP from late March to late April, founded something striking.

Even when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are “strongly unfavored”. According to this poll, 37 percent of the people surveyed “strongly unfavored” Hillary Clinton while Donald Trump was “strongly unfavored” by 53 percent of the people.

Both these results are the highest “strongly un-favorability” ratings in the past 8 presidential election cycles. In the case of Donald Trump, the next highest rating was George W. Bush in 2004 with around 32 percent. With Hillary Clinton, the next highest rating was President Obama in 2012 with 32 percent.

The fragmented support in each party was apparent throughout the presidential primaries; however, the issue wasn’t widely discussed until the open dissent at both the Republican National Convention (RNC) and the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

At the RNC, which was held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, noticeable divides in the party were evident. The chaos at the RNC started the first day of the Convention.

Not even a few hours into the Convention there was a controversial block on a roll call vote regarding convention rules.

Delegates and activists from the “Never Trump” movement actively tried to vote down the convention rules set by RNC, which would require delegates to vote according to their state’s primary or caucus results.

However, this active effort to vote down the rules failed rather quickly.     

Republican giants such as the Bush family (George H.W., George W., and Jeb), Senator John McCain and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney were also absent for the Convention, an oddity that should not be grazed over.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas gave a speech during the Convention that garnered a lot of attention. Specifically, the last lines of his speech:   

“We will unite the party; we will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the United States of America,” said Senator Cruz.

That is when the at-capacity crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena booed and jeered Cruz, who essentially declined to endorse Trump.

The Democratic National Convention also had its share of controversies.

The head of the DNC, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz stepped down from her position as chairperson. This decision was in reaction towards the leak of 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

The emails, made available on Wikileaks, showed what many perceived as coordinated bias against Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

During the week of the Convention, almost any mention of Clinton’s name was booed by Sanders’ supporters, especially supporters from the “Bernie or bust” movement that were in attendance.

“You’re being ridiculous!” said comedian Sarah Silverman, noted Bernie Sanders supporter who then endorsed Hillary Clinton that night, to the “Bernie or bust” supporters.

Silverman’s proclomation got her a mixed response from the crowd.

The rest of the week-long convention, excluding the email scandal, wasn’t as chaotic as the RNC, and featured unifying speeches given by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and even Senator Bernie Sanders.

Though both conventions tried unifying each party, there are still deep divisions in play.

Divisions, that must be dealt with for a country in the crossroads.

The fragmentation in each party continues to grow overtime. It seems as though both the Republican and Democratic Party are dealing with a version of identity crisis.

The Democrats are fighting over ideologies influenced by neoliberalism and various niche movements.

The Republicans are dealing with an identity crisis as they struggle to decide if they should support Donald Trump and follow the party line, or breakaway from party ways and reject the Republican candidate.

Here we are. The inevitable is now present. Presented to us, are two candidates.

Two candidates that must deal with growing division in their party’s and the un-favorable images that are portrayed of them in the media.

Both fighting for the chance to lead the country, using a path, that they believe, will get us out of these crossroads.

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