The midterms left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, whether because they were disappointed at the small gains made by Democrats or because the results did not reflect what they think people want. But the tight races and the obvious clout President Donald Trump carries within so many U.S. communities show that what we see splattered across the news is not so true after all.
There isn’t mass discontent at the current administration. What we have instead is widespread anger, because D.C. politics became how we see the world, and those who don’t toe the line are our enemies.
But anger is what fuels irrationality, blinding even the most level-headed among us. And when you have partisan advocates telling you anger is justified, what happens when someone is hurt in the name of justice?
Politics has, for the most part in the past decade, become a widely toxic constant in many people’s lives. While it is true that elections and political battles have historically involved a great deal of hysterical responses — even violent ones — the ongoing exposure to the madness provided by social media and our online habits made the debate nearly impossible to be carried out without threats. Many even lose friends over their views, while others become complete pariahs, being chased away by the mobs because of an unpopular opinion.
This transference translated into an unhealthy dynamic, making us confuse big political wars for what’s happening in our own communities.
As Jeff Deist, the Ludwig von Mises Institute President wrote recently, America is barely a country anymore.
Nations are so defined by the common traits that unify a people, but the lack of cohesion pitting Americans against Americans may signal to a different reality. We’re coming to realize that we are not just different because of our personal choices, religion, or lifestyle, “we fight over history, the Constitution, the Electoral College and other constitutional mechanisms, immigration and birthright citizenship, not to mention sex, race, class, and sexuality,” Deist explained.
In other words, we have completely turned politics into our way of life.
This complete politicization has not only impacted our personal relations, it has transformed our communities, towns, districts, and states into a mirror-like image of what happens in the federal political stage. Now, we demand local politicians to uphold agreements with foreign nations, pass the internet restrictions Trump would veto, and vow to provide the special privileges to certain groups the federal government rejected. We have transformed big and oftentimes manufactured issues into matters worth dying for, while ignoring the problems hurting our own neighbors.
By turning the democratic process into revolutions, we have proven, even if unwittingly, the need for a return to focusing on meaningful exchanges with our neighbors, our customers, partners, and colleagues.
As Overstock.com founder Patrick M. Byrne once argued, putting our faith in a central institution may no longer serve our purposes in the near future. Focusing on what keeps our neighbors going might just be what really matters, and strengthening our ties with those close to us will make more sense than fighting for a policy that would mean the end of the world to the other half of the country.
Thanks to the work of organizations like the Tenth Amendment Center, a huge number of political activists learned they didn’t have to focus on Washington, D.C., to free themselves from restrictions imposed by detached members of Congress over the decades. With the divisiveness and now violence we have seen growing since the 2016 election, we might just get the incentive we needed to finally walk away, going back to what was the original idea behind the Bill of Rights: fragmentation.
With states going back to being the primary governing units and the federal government existing only as a means to protect both the people and the states from any top-down impositions, we just might feel we’re finally home.