Why is America Divided?


Published by the Odyssey Online on July 25, 2016.

Hannah Gaschler

In Georgia, Joe Biden won by 0.2 percentage points; in Arizona, he won by 0.3 percentage points; and in Wisconsin, he won by 0.7 percentage points.  For the 2020 presidential election, most states were split almost evenly between the two candidates, showing that the United States is a divided nation right now.  But this division is nothing new.  Americans have been divided throughout history: during the Civil War, during the Vietnam War, and during the Watergate scandal, for example.  The level of division fluctuates, but it has been at a particularly high point during Trump’s presidency and is now quite apparent in the election results.  It is natural for America to have leaders in office from varying points of view; in fact, it is healthy to have representatives with different ideas.  But when both sides refuse to compromise, the divide becomes greater–and this is damaging for the nation.   

America was founded by men with various political beliefs.  Some were for more government control, and some were for less.  But together, through much compromise and discussion, they developed the US Constitution.  This document was meant to be the standard and the point of agreement among the parties, uniting the states in order to make the nation stronger in the areas of common defense, regulation of trade, and power to tax.  The Founding Fathers also established the three branches of government, to which states would elect people from different political parties.  This way, one party alone was not over the US, but different parties could work together for the good of Americans, abiding by the Constitution.  

This plan of government sounds reasonable, and it worked for many years.  However, there have been several disruptions to this peace, where Congress–or the nation itself–has been divided over an issue.  The nation was divided over states’ rights and slavery during the Civil War; over the US presence in Vietnam during the Vietnam War; over President Nixon’s virtue during the Watergate scandal; and now–over President Trump and Joe Biden.  Especially since President Trump was elected in 2016, the division between the Republican and Democratic parties has been growing.  One of the reasons for this division is the differing views that people have on the US Constitution–the glue that should hold the parties together. Many Democrats believe that the Constitution is a “living document;” thus, it can be interpreted easily to suit the present circumstances.  On the other hand, most Republicans believe that the Constitution should be interpreted according to the original intent. Because of the differing views on the Constitution, as well as the opposing ideologies of the parties, it is difficult for Congress to make decisions and get things done, and this is why a divided nation is unhealthy.  The Congressional sessions become less about working together on some common goals for the good of the nation and more about whose party can have the most laws passed in its favor.  With the disagreement about the Constitution, the standard for making decisions is gone, and the benefit of the country is left behind.     

Political differences have always existed; however, the divide becomes greater when both sides refuse to compromise, and this is dangerous for the nation.  Abraham Lincoln famously said, quoting the Bible, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  He understood political division and how harmful that is for a country.  Not only does division make it difficult for the government to pass laws, but also it prevents the country from having stable foreign relations, because when a country has so much struggle within, it is not strong enough to prevent outsiders from exploiting it.  Division also affects the peace of the nation, not only among government officials, but also among the citizens of the country.  For example, after the 2016 election, the riots and protests that shook the nation were the result of citizens’ hatred for the winning party.  But even though tensions in the US are bitter right now, there is still hope for healing. 

“The beauty and the glory of our constitutional system is that it gives us the tools to fight injustice, to heal division, and to continue the work of our Founding Fathers by expanding and growing the blessings of America,” said President Trump during his 2020 Fourth of July speech. 

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States,” Joe Biden said during his victory speech.  

As Republicans and Democrats agree that the nation is divided and that the division needs to end, maybe someday they can come to an agreement on the Constitution and have the same goals for the nation–not seeking power for their parties, but maintaining privileges for the people.