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The State of the Union Preceding Election Year

America has experienced immense polarization in recent years, with the common ground between Democrats and Republicans getting increasingly smaller. With a critical election year on the horizon, understanding the contributing factors behind the current political climate is more important than ever.  

Elements of the old class struggle narrative, featuring oppressed and oppressor, have become a mainstay of modern political thought on the left over the last decade. Tensions were already running hotter than usual throughout the 2010s. Occupy Wall Street, the Ferguson and Charlottesville riots, and, most recently, the George Floyd riots in 2020 all employed elements of this narrative.

The modern left concerns itself mainly with social justice issues, fighting to advance the rights, status and privileges afforded to minority groups. Rigid social values are often described as arbitrary, with the left taking a laissez-faire and malleable approach to the social fabric of society. Meanwhile, it’s inclined towards robust social spending and enlarged government programs that act as a support net for society: an alternative to market-based solutions commonly adopted on the right.  

The American right is rooted in small-government thinking and traditional Christian values. Because of this, conservatives view the social fabric of society in a much different way; traditional values are integral to and underscore the health of society at large. Conservatives are less likely to identify themselves as advocates of legislation that might compromise or contradict those values. The concept of limited government has always been at the forefront of American conservative thought, with those on the right traditionally preferring a hands-off approach to governance, reducing government structures down to small and localized units wherever they can.   

In the wake of the pandemic, the U.S. has suffered an inflation rate higher than that of the early 1980s, with the prices of everyday consumer goods such as food, gasoline and associated costs of living rocketing to new highs seemingly overnight. With prices increasing both dramatically and quickly, it has become a sore spot among many middle-class Americans and a flashpoint for further civil unrest. In addition, the U.S. housing market is effectively inaccessible for many working-class Americans, with a shortage of available homes on the market and high-interest rates contributing to prohibitively high home prices for prospective buyers.  

All these issues have worsened political gaps, creating political chasms between conservatives and liberals.

Additionally, the propensity for political violence is on the rise. The capitol riots proved such sentiments, with capitol police reporting twice the number of threats against members of Congress compared to years prior. In 2020, the nationwide violence that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death resulted in roughly $2 billion in insured property damages alone. 2024 is an election year for the U.S., and Americans certainly possess the ability to bridge their differences. But whether that will actually manifest is yet to be seen. 

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