Left, Right and No Middle: How on Earth Did Politics Get So Nasty?
Updated: Jul 26
Finding middle ground nowadays seems nearly impossible no matter who it is you find yourself talking to. We're trained to anticipate the awkward Thanksgiving dinners and to avoid talking politics and religion - but sometimes you just stumble into one of these sticky conversations and struggle to climb your way out. The way out of these conversations is typically agreeing to disagree and move on. But with politics sticking its fingers into sports and popular culture, these agonizing debates in which no common agreement can be found are becoming more and more routine.
Recently, I fell victim to one of these dreadful conversations myself on a phone call with my Aunt Jodie. To provide some background, Jodie is a Trump-loving Floridian retiree who is often a few sangrias deep by the time she decides to give me a call. To say we have different values and political beliefs is an understatement. While I roam the streets of New York City day in and day out looking for perspectives from the left on current political issues, my aunt is sitting on her patio overlooking the beautiful golf course her home sits on watching Fox News on her DirectTV app whilst smoking a Camel Crush. To put it in a more blunt way, our lives are VERY different.
I began the call with my Aunt Jodie the same way any other call with a family member begins. I asked about her husband, how the dog was, what she had been up to, you know... the usual. Eventually, the topic of conversation turned to the news, and Aunt Jodie made it clear she had a real issue with Nascar Driver Bubba Watson. She accused him of making the whole 'noose' situation up after the FBI had revealed an alleged 'noose' in the African American driver's garage was nothing more than a garage pull. I asked if she'd seen the photos of the garage pull, she said no. I asked this because anybody with working eyes that saw the photo could have seen it's resemblance to a noose. After hopping on FaceTime to show her the picture, she still wouldn't budge. "That driver lied.", she said, "He knows what a garage pull looks like."
I'm no racing fan, so I left it at that and changed the topic but the conversation had left me feeling frustrated. She was looking at the same picture I had been looking at! I know we don't agree on politics but how is this political?! This is regarding whether or not a rope that looked like a noose looks like a noose! It baffled me. What is it that is causing my aunt to so blatantly disregard something that seems so obvious?
I couldn't stomach it. The loving nephew in me wanted to leave the conversation as we'd left it, on a pleasant note. But the politician in me needed to know more. I needed to know Aunt Jodie's thoughts on the statues being taken down, Trump's handling of coronavirus, and above all - the election. As I began dialing her phone number I paused to debate whether this was a good idea. After all, I know we likely won't agree on anything and this may start a quarrel between our two sides of the family. But with these concerns in mind, I continued on and clicked the 'call' button.
My Aunt was surprised to hear from me again so soon, after all, we'd just spoken only ten minutes prior. I told her I wanted to talk politic to which she immediately responded "Well fine but you ain't going to want to hear what I got to say". The first topic, the statues. Jodie made it clear what her opinion was, "You can't just erase history." she said. So I told her the vast majority of confederate statues were built in the 1960s as a rebuttal to the civil rights movement. I explained these statues were not "freedom of speech" as they were on federal property.I even extended an olive branch of sorts proposing the relocation of the statues to a heritage museum of sorts. None of my input seemed to change Aunt Jodie's tone. "We need to remember our history", Jodie said "Plain and simple".
So there would be no middle-ground to be found in regards to statues, fair enough. I figure even Aunt Jodie can admit President Trump didn't do such a great job in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. So I ask her what she thinks, and he answer shocks me. "This is China's fault. They want to see us fail.". Again, I try my best to find middle ground. I say sure I think China's early mismanagement is a factor in the chain of event that led us to where we are, but the lack of leadership and early dismissals of the virus's threat from Trump are certainly big factors as well. This one seemed to set her off, while she never flat out said the virus was a hoax, she definitely dismissed it a whole lot. Long story short on this one, no middle ground of any kind could be found.
So alright I covered statues, brought up coronavirus and so far Aunt Jodie and I have yet to make any progress as to finding a commonplace amongst our political beliefs. The last question I know will take me nowhere in regard to an agreement between Jodie and myself, however, I ask her nonetheless. "Who will you be voting for?" I ask, already knowing the answer. "That's easy, Donald J. Trump," says Jodie. Then she asks me what I like about Biden and to be honest my answer was pretty simple, "Because he's not Trump."
Maybe that's what's enabling so much division, so little middle ground. In an era in which the President of the United States is one of the most divisive leaders in the world, there is no clear leader from the other side. Sure we have a candidate, but none of us are crazy about him. He isn't as unpalatable as Hillary but he's certainly no Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Instead, Biden is old and fragile and very status quo as far as Washington goes. He's been there forever and holds no truly unique policies of his own. Instead, he is a pawn of the Democratic establishment, and unfortunately for us the voters he is the much much better option in such a critical election.
So as the Trump supporters continue to make their noise and fill our feeds with some arguably questionable viewpoints may we, the Democrats, long for a day our party finds a truly charismatic and intelligent voice on the left to lead both our country and party out of this mess. Until that day comes, elect Grandpa Joe into office for Christ's sake! Don't let a bunch of Aunt Jodies (bless her heart) dictate the next four years for our country!