Fortunately, Our Society Is Not As Polarized As Our Politics

In the wake of the politically toxic dialogue of recent weeks, it’s refreshing to note that 63% of voters recognize that American society is not as polarized as American politics. Most understand that who we are as individuals and communities is much more than our political affiliation or ideology.

Still, the impact of our broken political system spills over into society-at-large and creates a variety of social challenges. Four-out-of-five voters have a close friend or a family member from the other side of the political aisle. How do they navigate Thanksgiving dinners, football games, and happy hours? The overwhelming majority (81%) simply try to avoid talking politics.

The desire to avoid the slimy world of politics is highlighted by the fact that more people are willing to give blood than get involved in a political campaign. That sense of politics as a distant and unpleasant noise moderates public opinion in a way that few in the political world can fathom.

Even after weeks of all out political warfare, 63% of voters do not have a strong opinion of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Half (50%) do not have a strong opinion about now-Justice Kavanaugh. Rather than firmly choosing sides, most voters (54%) believe both told the truth as they know it and remember it.

Senator Susan Collins, the ultimate swing vote in the Kavanaugh confirmation process, had every utterance analyzed for hints of how she might vote. In official Washington, there was intense interest in her lengthy speech to announce her vote. Despite this, most American voters (53%) do not know who Susan Collins is. The other potential swing votes on Kavanaugh are even less well known.

The moderating influence that comes from not getting too caught up in politics is essential for maintaining a healthy society. By focusing on common interests rather than political differences, people can work together in community and help build a better world. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of voters understand that volunteering for community activities has a bigger positive impact than engaging in political campaigns.

Voters also recognize that much more than government is needed to create a functioning society. Seventy-one percent (71%) recognize that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have had a bigger impact on the world than all eight U.S. presidents who have served since the founding of Apple and Microsoft.

This larger perspective is unfortunately missing in much political dialogue. The politically obsessed sometimes seem to lose sight of the fact that the goal is not to win a political battle, craft the perfect policy, or even to win control of Congress.

The goal is not to create a government that works, it is to create a society that works. That means striving to live up to our nation’s noble founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. It means doing all we can to ensure that every single American has the right to live their life as they see fit. The only requirement is that we respect the rights of others to do the same.

Unfortunately, only 32% believe that the federal government respects the right of individual Americans to live as they see fit.

Posted in Scott's Columns

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