We live in a polarized country. This has become the new political cliche, to say that we are polarized, divided. And watching the news, reading the paper, only seems to confirm that for us. We saw it during the election cycle: one could be forgiven for thinking that our choice was between a candidate who wanted a violent proletariat revolution, and another who wanted to enslave women. Was either of these things true? Of course not. But so heated was the rhetoric on both sides that bitterness and resentment were inevitable.
But does it have to be this way? Are we really as divided as we think we are?
Both parties have their own claims to limited government. Republicans tend to promote economic freedom, while Democrats generally advocate for civil liberties. Each of these ideas is popular with the general public. Unfortunately, both parties are very shaky when it comes to actual promotion of these ideas. During the Bush years, domestic spending skyrocketed and government bureaucracy was expanded dramatically. Now, under the Obama administration, drones are used extrajudicially and medical marijuana dispensaries are raided in states like California, where it is legal. Is this the will of the people? The answer is no, and yet still these things continue unchecked due to political pressure.
The fact that government continues to grow shows that our leaders are not reflective of the people as they should be. Surveys show that the stances of most Americans are moving in a more libertarian direction. It is increasingly true that people are disillusioned both by Keynesian-style economics and by government overreach on social issues. This is not a partisan trend, but one that applies to voters from both parties. Many Romney voters were not preoccupied with whether gays are allowed to marry, but voted based on economic issues. Likewise, many Obama voters were not avowed redistributionists, but voted to keep the government out of people's bedrooms. In addition, many politically aware people either chose not to vote, or voted third party, because neither candidate seemed intent on shrinking government.
What if the tone of our political debate was not how government can intervene and "fix" perceived social problems, but how the individual can be empowered in a spirit of self-determination? Perhaps we would be less divided. Liberty is popular, and only once our elected leaders start embracing it can we put the polarization talk to rest.