As we are taught early on in school, the United States’ political spectrum is represented by two major political parties: the Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats represent the left, which includes liberal and libertarian ideologies mostly, and Republicans represent the right, which is composed of a more conservative approach. The global political spectrum has essentially the same structure, with the exception that it is not composed of two-party systems throughout other developed nations. In recent years we have seen the rise of political polarization in the United States and what it is doing to us as a society. But is this solely an American issue? Why is it that extremist political polarization in the United States is a sole phenomenon that we don’t appreciate as much in other western nations?
The point of concern that the American political party system raises is that it is skewed from this global view. The American right today tends to be more radical than in any other western country—those are the nations that the United States can most closely compare to—while the American left has become more leftist in recent years, yet still leaning closer to the global center.
In politics, the term Overton Window details how the influx of radical comments made by a group or party can create a shift in the political center toward a new acceptable standard. Since the year 2015, when the then-presidential candidate and current president Donald Trump began making comments to specific demographics and talked about things that most would consider unimaginable for a United States president to ever mention, a division in society was created and in this case, it is a problem that has caused the Overton Window to shift to the right, making the middle ground right our new political center.
Thus, when in another time, somebody like former Ohio governor John Kasich would have simply been considered a rightist because of his Republican affiliation, he is now seen as moderate and possibly as the moderate ideological norm in the country. This is causing the opposite effect on the left-wing, considering that now Democrats are being accused of having very extremist points of view, not just by Republicans, but by citizens of society in many cases as well. These extremist conducts of which Democrats are now being accused—which include those of being communists for advocating for accessible programs like healthcare and higher education to all Americans that are assured by most developed nations—add to the new right-wing alignment ideology that our political spectrum has developed into. The global political spectrum considers these issues as mostly out of the question in political races in other nations because their citizens already have access to such things, which in the 21st century are considered human rights by the various bodies of the United Nations.
Maggie Astor from the New York Times explains that the reason why the right-wing has become so extremist in recent years is due to the lack of a multi-party system. Where in other countries a radical right party would be a faction on its own, in the U.S., the radical right-wing has instead grown to be the base of the right-wing in general, and because of the American two-party system, the base of the Republican party as well.
Where once stood the conventional, societal and institutional values of the Republicans, the party has now become synonymous with the Trumpist phenomenon, which is not what many Republicans believe in. This is the reason why many of the well-known Republicans are choosing to distance or even completely separate themselves from the Trumpist movement and declare themselves as simply Republicans but not Trump supporters.
The understanding of the concept of this new political spectrum can aid in explaining the unprecedented political polarization that American society has been experiencing in recent decades. This is a phenomenon that is literally affecting the fabric of our society and our social interactions, and one that goes much more in-depth than simply looking at our differing opinions. It is something that can affect people on a global scope given that the United States is the nation that has created the current world order and is the one in charge of keeping it.