The intensity surrounding the coming election, the nastiness of the debates and general rhetoric, and the unending protests and rallies and even regattas in support of President Trump paint a picture of a very polarized nation. Our divisions are real—and concerning—but some context is needed.
What we see in the electoral and social zeitgeist of the day is not representative of all of the nation’s 330 million citizens. The truth is that extreme voices and institutions have an outsized influence on our discourse and political focus, but there remains a significant number of centrists in the country who are not as engaged or closed minded as the more extreme voices. Those centrists can play an important role in elevating our discourse. Let me explain why.
Fox News, the most watched network on TV during the primetime hours of 8-11 p.m., averages 3.6 million primetime viewers, followed by second-place MSNBC’s 2.2 million. Twitter appears to be everywhere, but just 6 percent of U.S. adults on Twitter account for 73 percent of political tweets, and these voices mostly disapprove of Trump and tend to be extreme liberals in their own bubble. Robin DiAngelo’s controversial book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism has sold about 800,000 copies. These numbers are small when looked at as a percentage of population.
Meanwhile, the more moderate and open views of large numbers of Americans are not being heard. These people might not be worried about the latest brouhaha with the New York Times editorial board or which public figure just got “canceled” after old bad tweets were uncovered. Instead, they believe that government paralysis and dysfunction is a huge problem for the nation. Further, our citizens are not impressed or happy with either party to the point that relatively small numbers of Americans believe that either party’s policies are moving the country in the right direction.