Fed up with the era of political polarization

by Emma Maple | Staff Writer

Photo illustration of a citizen voting in the 2020 presidential election. “Man putting his vote in the ballot box for Presidental Election 2020” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I live at the intersection of two worlds. My conservative friends believe Trump and the Republicans are the saviors of America. My liberal friends believe Biden and the Democrats are the only way to move forward.  

I’m stuck in the middle.  

The state of our gridlocked two-party system disgusts me. It reminds me of a schoolyard that has divided into two sides, chosen one person from each side, and then watched, cheering, as the two chosen ones beat one another to death.  

The presidential debates are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Time Magazine states, “The first presidential debate… may be better remembered for its antagonistic tone, and the din of the candidates talking over each other, than any policy discussion.”

I watched five minutes of this debate and then walked out from sheer annoyance. If I wanted to listen to two people squabbling, I would babysit children. Such a display is not what I want to see when I tune into the presidential debate.   

I didn’t watch the second presidential debate, but I hope it went better. The moderators used muted microphones, like our presidential candidates were toddlers who couldn’t follow proper etiquette rules. At least it stopped them from talking over each other.     

When the time came to fill out my ballot, I didn’t know what to do.  I could hear my friends’ voices in my head, explaining why their candidate was the better option – the only option. I could see equal amounts of good and bad in each candidate. I still couldn’t bring myself to look beyond their political parties long enough to pick a side. For me, doing so would have been supporting the hate and bigotry that is entrenched in our current two-party system. Like The Atlantic says, our politics have descended into the very thing our founding fathers feared and warned us against—a two party system where the “voters now vote the party, not the candidate.”

In the end, rather than supporting someone who might actually win, I took the easy route.  

I voted third party.  

On the walk back from dropping off my ballot, all I could think was that I threw my vote away. Some might argue with that statement. According to the Federal Election Commission, if a third-party candidate can get 5% of the popular vote, their party then qualifies for federal funding. This funding would allow candidates to pay for the promotion of their party, which could lead to more votes. If a third-party candidate ends up with 15% of the popular vote, they then qualify for a space on the same debate stage as the Republican and Democratic candidates.

In essence, long term benefits to voting third party do exist. However, this truth doesn’t change the fact in this presidential election, Jo Jorgenson only got 1.2% of the popular vote and zero electoral votes.  In other words, this time around, my third-party vote did no good.  

As always, a major party candidate won the election. 

Biden will soon be president. 

Some of my friends are calling for celebration.  Others are calling for a recount. According to NPR, the Trump administration is attempting to move forward with a recount in Wisconsin—and they’re willing to pay for it. This choice isn’t that surprising, considering the fact that in Wisconsin, Biden only won the popular vote by around 20,000 votes.

But even if Wisconsin did flip to red, the result would only be 10 more electoral votes for Trump—not enough to change the electoral college’s decision. NBC says that “Chances are a recount won’t make a difference in a statewide election.” People need to just accept the fact that Biden is our president and move on. 

Biden won’t be a perfect president. Trump wasn’t, either. None of our candidates are going to be perfect. If you are mad at the end of one president’s four years in office, then go ahead and vote for someone else.  

But for now, can we just accept it?