If control of the narrative in American life and politics is to be controlled by politicians and media agencies, all looking to further an agenda, then America will remain to be, or remain appearing to be a nation extremely divided. The polarization of American society has been amplified in the Trump era, where the constant denunciation of “Fake News” from one side, has only been made worse by the perpetual demonization of ideologies and ideals held by the other. If Americans are to continue looking only to hyper-partisans for their direction, then our house will increasingly be divided until we cannot stand. But what if Americans were to start looking to each other? Buried beneath the constant barrage of chaos since the 2020 election is the sobering reality of what American citizens said with their vote: Americans want a return to moderation.
American desire for a return to normality in their daily lives and national politics is best and most simply demonstrated by who they voted for in 2020. As noted in an Op-Ed by Carrie Conko & Erin Norman for USA Today, “While Biden won the popular vote, Republican congressional and down-ballot candidates surprised nearly all the pollsters.” For Conko & Norman, the election of Biden coinciding with further gains by conservatives in the House of Representatives is driven by the desire for stability of the “vital center.” While the fringes on both sides of the political spectrum get the headlines and airwaves, the vital center is the heart of American politics, which is increasingly independent of the extreme climate dominating our political psyche. “…While pundits frequently observe that Americans are polarized, these Americans, who comprise 47% of the voting public, are closer to the middle than the extremes of the spectrum.” Over the last few election cycles, the vital center has proven that they are not beholden to pure party politics, but to results which impact their daily lives.
Another indication of the desire for American politics can be found in the issues that were deemed “vote determinative” for voters across the political spectrum. In a post-election study compiled by Heart and Mind Strategies, it appears that this election may be defined by two core issues: The Economy and the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of the key issues studied, these two by far were indicated as voter determinative by those polled, with 16 percent of voters cited the growing of our economy as a primary concern and 19 percent noted the pandemic response. In the bigger picture of 2020, the economy was President Trump’s rallying cry, but the pandemic was his Achille’s Heel. As the pandemic all but brought American life to a standstill, it lends credibility to the result that many Conservatives and Independents may have rejected Trump for the White House but supported down ballot Republicans who would champion their economic vision.
But exit polling did not express support for some of the more radical agendas that have been brought into the mainstream of American politics by politicians and the media. Conko & Norman point out that while 39 percent of the vital center felt that health care was a primary concern to address in our nation, “…only 1 in 5 voters saying that universal government health care is the way to go.” Similarly, while the “Defund the Police” movement gained considerable headlines and outsized vocal support by many politicians and pundits in 2020, “Survey data confirms, meanwhile, that a plurality of Americans is conservative in its views on everything from policing to business regulation.”
Election 2020 was the culmination of many years where political operatives have attempted to advocate divisive positions to everyday issues in American life. The verdict of 2020 is that the division being sowed in this country does not resonate with the people. We have entered an era where at least two branches of government and the free press are viewed as increasingly hyperbolic, partisan, and self-serving. As a result, public trust in all of these institutions has reached anemic levels. The relentless predictions of a Blue Wave and the subsequent accusations of a fraudulent election were the realizations of the extreme echo-chambers that have evolved in our political system. The votes of the people rejected both. Hopefully they will listen.
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