The political climate in the United States is becoming increasingly hostile. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and response, presidential election, and movement to challenge police brutality are polarizing the country. Each of these bring their own health and economic concerns as well as a feeling of instability.
As of September 2020, in America there have been some 6.7 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 200 thousand deaths due to COVID-19 according to the WHO. The stay-at-home orders and mask mandates issued to curb the spread have faced political and public scrutiny. Some of the lockdowns prompted protests. In Michigan, hundreds of people, many openly armed, gathered at the state capitol building to call for the reopening of businesses. The Pew Research Center has reported growing division between Democrats and Republicans on many COVID-related topics including the perception of disease risk, opinions on measures used to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and the confidence in medical science.
The presidential election is also increasing political tensions. President Donald Trump has said that his main opponent, Joe Biden, wants to “take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God,” even though Biden is a practicing Catholic. On the other side of the aisle, Biden has said that Trump’s reaction to COVID-19 was “almost criminal” and caused Americans to die. With this rhetoric, it’s unsurprising that 54% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans “said the opposing party was so misguided as to be actually dangerous”. Speakers at both presidential conventions earlier this year did little to assuage those fears, arguing that their opponents represented an existential threat to the country.
The country is also facing civil unrest after George Floyd’s death while in police custody. Since his death, there have been protests in at least 140 cities around the United States, some lasting more than one day. Minneapolis, the city where Floyd was killed, has reported that at least $55 million in damages occurred over the course of the protests in that city alone. Killings by police are continuing to be caught on camera. After Jacob Blake was shot 7 times by police in August, protests increased sometimes drawing counter-protesters. Two protestors were killed by a 17-year-old in Kenosha, Wisconsin during these demonstrations. There are also political divides about whether systematic racism is a problem in America with the gap between the two sides growing.
Politics and partisan ideology have been creating a hostile environment, and the events of 2020 have solidified it. Their combination has led to increasing instability, frustration, and fear among the American people. When people believe that the other political party actively wants to do them and the country harm, it is nearly impossible to have a reasonable debate.