Americans need to build cross partisan solidarity and find common ground to get things done. Though now, more than ever, Americans seem to hate each other. Even among independents, their partisan preference is based not on which party they agree with, but which party they disagree with and fear the most.
While there is a great deal of policy disagreement between Republican and Democratic voters, there are actually a number of issues on which they agree.
As we get closer to the most consequential election of our lifetimes — and perhaps in American history — violence between the left and right may increase. Both sides of the political spectrum are armed: the right began arming after 2008 amid fears of impending gun control that never happened, and eight years later, after the 2016 election, liberals and leftists likewise took to arming themselves.
While both sides arming themselves can be seen as a deterioration of America’s willingness to compromise, there is a bright side. As Americans to the left of center develop a gun culture of their own, there will be fewer people who know very little about guns demanding that we institute sweeping and ineffective bans.
One of the most common complaints from gun owners about liberals is that they don’t know anything about guns. As liberals arm the Democratic Party’s base of institutional knowledge on the topic will expand, leading to more nuanced policy discussions.
Urban or rural, left or right, Americans have grown overwhelmingly concerned about climate change. Despite what conservative politicians and pundits portray, the conservative position on the issue is that yes, humanity is causing climate change and that yes, we need to do something about it. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans believe that the federal government is doing too little about climate change, and 52% of Republicans age 18-35. The main hurdle at this point is the question of what we should do about it.
Democrats argue for an investment in solar, wind and water. However, each of these solutions have their own problems. Solar panels have a shelf life, making them only a temporary solution at best, wind turbines produce both noise pollution and adversely affect birds of prey, and building dams is both destructive and costly, though does have some positives for the environment.
A clear alternative to these three typical green energies is nuclear power. Both Democrat and Republican voters ages 18-35 support nuclear energy, with more support among Republicans.
While most people associate nuclear reactors with events like Three-Mile Island, Fukushima and Chernobyl, those are outliers. After the Fukushima disaster, the underlying causes were analyzed by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists found that a reactor will only fail like this once every 3704 years. The main issue with nuclear energy is that we currently lack the infrastructure to adopt it on a wide scale. As of 2019, 19.7% of the energy our country uses is nuclear, and 62.7% comes from fossil fuels. When you consider that generating nuclear energy does not emit carbon dioxide into the air and is cheaper than traditional fossil fuels, the choice should be easy.
Beyond guns and climate change, the most uniting issue for Americans is how much we all dislike our government. In 1964, 77% of Americans trusted the federal government. Today, that number is down to 20%. In my opinion, it has become an enduring characteristic of American culture to view authority with suspicion.
While there are those who might say that finding common ground on specific issues could compromise our core values on those issues, I would contend that the only way of convincing someone of your point is to first find common ground which is typically rooted in core values. Common ground should be found on the basis of solutions, not issues. Two people can believe that a thing is a problem, but for radically different reasons.
If we don’t find things we agree on, sooner or later we’ll start killing each other in droves. If you don’t believe me, listen to the podcast “It Could Happen Here.”
Nick Finan is a sophomore secondary social science education major. Reach him at email@example.com