The annual State of the Union address took place last Tuesday, Biden’s first in his presidency. In it, a wide range of issues was covered with a noticeable lack of policies from his 2021 focus. A championing of bipartisanship seemed more noticeable than usually present in affairs such as this. What, if anything, does this suggest about the direction of the Democratic Party going forward? And will this really have any impact on Biden’s declining popularity? A Rough Beginning Biden’s presidency was born from one of the most polarized races in American history with calls of voter fraud and election tampering running far into the months following – a large amount of mail-in votes led to counting going late into the following days with some travelling across states to speed up the process. The circumstances of such an election came together in the form of the January 6th Insurrection, an event that directly marked the divide present between the most extreme right and the general public.
Whilst the insurrection was in itself an isolated event, the rise of right-wing ideals within America has become more prevalent. This can be seen across multiple fields, especially: COVID guidelines, climate change and attitudes towards social issues such as abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. This has aided the image of a disunited, more polarized America than ever but is this belief necessarily true?
America Post–1990 In the 1992s Republican National Convention, a speech by Patrick Buchana labelled the need for a culture war in order to secure the future of the country – this was not an inciting moment but a clear representation of the growing separation within America, caused by both the media and politicians. The period of 1994 – 2014, following the first defeat of the Democrats in the House of Representatives in 40 years, saw the move of average voters towards the two, currently categorized, opposing views: liberal and conservative; with those voting for Democrats, going from 64% more to 92% more liberal than Republicans, and those voting for Republicans, going from 70% to 94% more conservative than Democrats. Whilst this new era of polarisation was by no means on the level with that of the civil war or of the period following up until the 1900s (which saw open political violence on the streets), it is still notable in the influence it has had on policies as well as the growth in “harmful” views. America now along with its current divisions, should not be compared with that of the “old” America, as they are almost two different metrics entirely – open political violence in the modern day would simply not be tolerated, both on a moral and feasible level. Therefore, whilst it can be argued that America has always been polarized to some extent, the level of daily division amongst the general public as well as the blurring of lines between party and ideology has become increasingly obvious recently, along with its influence on decision-making within America. This is not a problem limited to recent years, but more one that current officials will have to deal with for the foreseeable future due to the growing trend that originated in the 1990s. How this links to Biden’s position in 2022, will be explained in part 2 “Biden’s Move Towards Centralism.” Glossary
Bipartisanship – Cooperation between two political parties
Democratic Party – One of the main parties in the US
Polarized – Divide between two opposing viewpoints
Insurrection – An armed uprising against a government body
Right-wing Ideals – Beliefs orientated in traditional ideas
Republican National Convention – The Republican nomination convention held every four years
Culture War – Conflict between groups for dominance of values and beliefs
House of Representatives – The lower chamber of Congress, larger body
Liberal – Views surrounding rights of the individual, liberty, and consent
Conversative – Traditional values and opposition to change and innovation
Civil War – The American civil war over state’s rights, especially slavery
Ideology – A system of ideals and ideas, relating to political and economic through