Is America headed toward a second Civil War? Instead of a war that poses the North
against the South, the new Union and Confederacy seem to be our partisan system of Democrats
and Republicans. Even our leaders, a new generation of politicians led by President Donald
Trump, work to further partisan divides for their own gain. Today’s separation between parties is
so colossal that many have used the term “tribalism” to describe America’s political climate.
Today’s tribalism is not the kind that many (I openly include myself in this) may think of, where
ethnic or religious “tribes” persecute one another over numerous generations in distant lands. But
a modern kind of tribalism is based off the less distinct lines ideology, join together toward a
unified cause – their improvement. Both “tribes” have similar properties; they have their own
discrete values, control separate “lands,” and most importantly, always stick by their tribe
members (and violently oppose those in separate tribes). Politics has become more than a battle –
it is a war, with social media acting as the digital battleground and everyone serving as soldiers.
And in this digital battleground, there is no common ground, no in-between; Twitter is a political
echo chamber, Facebook is overrun with “fake news,” and everyone is throwing verbal grenades
at the other side without stopping to consider the consequences. Clearly, in the last decade, the
Internet has served as a wedge that forces political divides, a wedge that we must do something
to stop if we wish to ever save our nation and subvert today’s tribalism. Or is it? While it is true
to a certain degree social media has perpetuated partisan division, it has also, on the whole, kept
Americans more informed and more active than ever in democracy.
Did that intro sound like a New York Times article? Because that was the idea. I have
heard that the New York Times is a pretty good newspaper – I’ve also heard that it’s fake news.
These days, the media focuses intensely on America’s growing partisan divides, and while I
agree that this is a pressing issue, I think that today’s media focuses too much on the negatives
and overlooks the positive shifts in democracy in America. But while the negatives are probably
more interesting, the positives are worth mentioning as well. Since the 2016 election, people
across America, from both parties, are more involved than ever in democracy because of two
main reasons – President Trump and social media. I think the social media aspect is a little more
self-explanatory, so I’ll start off with Trump.
For the eight years leading up to Trump’s inauguration, America had a well-liked, well-
respected, and most importantly, highly competent President, Barack Obama (I’ll try to speed
through this part, so we can get to the more entertaining part about Trump). Most of America, or
at least most Democrats, trusted Obama to get the job done and achieve the goals and ideals they
had for this country. After all, we got our first black president, so that must mean progress, right?
When the 2012 elections rolled around, Americans assumed he would just get reelected without
their help (they were actually right, but that’s beyond the point). This resulted in the lowest
polling numbers in over 70 years. At the same time, while numerous mass shootings occurred
during Obama’s two terms, not one law was passed to change anything about gun ownership,
even in spite of Obama’s pushing towards stricter gun laws. This may have been due to a
Republican-controlled Congress that made it difficult for him to get anything done, but even that
addresses the issue – people did not care about Congressional elections and instead sat idly by
while a Republican-majority Congress was elected, even under a blue president.
Flash-forward to number 45. While Trump has purposed zero real solutions to the gun
crisis (hear me out Trump supporters – I’m getting somewhere), new laws have been passed
banning bump-stocks, Florida increased their age to buy a firearm to 21, and some sport-stores
have stopped selling assault-style rifles. So right now, you’re probably wondering: Where did all
this change come from? If the person at the top doesn’t want to see things change, why are all
these laws being made down at the lower levels of government? Well, let me tell you, reader.
The change has come from The People, and especially The Teenage People. People too young to
vote have been the catalysts for serious change. We all remember the school walkout last year,
where all the girls went onto the steps of Presley and gave inspirational speeches about how we
can create change while most of the guys sat in class and played Surviv.io. High-school walkouts
just like ours happened all across America, and along with other initiatives primarily organized
and led by teenagers, led to real changes.
During Trump’s first two years as President, some serious change has already occurred.
Now before you liberal readers (which I’m sure there are many of, since the Bi-Line is the
school’s “liberal publication”) start ranting about everything bad that Trump has done – just hear
me out for one second. I am not taking lightly the issues facing immigrants, the public-school
system, and the environment under Trump’s administration. But I think something very
important, and desperately needed is happening. People are getting involved. Not me, but other
people who care about the betterment of society. You know, people with free time on their
hands. I could write an entire essay about everything that has changed over just the past two
years because of this (if you don’t believe me then send me an email at
[email protected]), but for the sake of brevity you will just have to take my word
that a lot has changed and that a lot more people are getting involved.
This brings me to the second cause of more people being involved in democracy, social
media. As I said earlier, this cause is more self-explanatory. With the Internet, there is quick and
easy access to any important event or politician that you need to look up. This is something that
has not been available for the vast majority of American history. Everyone receives a constant
stream of news from Snapchat or Instagram or Twitter, and for more in depth news, most every
newspaper is online now (including your very own Bi-Line – www.thebiline.com) The main
argument against the Internet as a news source is the planted “fake-news” all across the Internet,
from both parties. Political propaganda has always been a part of our democracy, but now it is
more readily available and we are just as gullible as ever. My response to this statement is that in
2018, you need to be careful, and always read about events and politicians from more than one
source to confirm accuracy. Another thing I have heard some of my smart friends say is that
social media is “a political echo chamber.” Those are big words for a someone like me. My
friends said that it means that everyone just listens to their own side, and nothing productive gets
done. I agree that is many cases this may be true, I think it is getting better, people are listening
to other sides more today than they did just two years ago. Unlike most articles (because I am
different), I am going to leave you with the positives: people today are more involved in
democracy than ever.