A decade divided: How presidential politics are on the offensive


Madison Mauro, Former Opinion Editor

With only two weeks until 2020, and the campaign for a new presidential candidate afoot, it’s become all too clear that the gradual animosity from Republican and Democratic parties has reached its boiling point. After a decade of polarity, it’s hard not to look back and wonder exactly, “what happened?”

At the forefront of 2010, the Obama Administration led the nation into a new era promising a move “Forward” as says his slogan throughout his year and a half campaign read. After promoting “Hope” and “Change we can believe in” during his initial campaign in 2008, former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden pledged and outlined a plan for the next four years that would not only heal a recovering America, but kickstart reform. Together, they introduced a few small ideas including the Affordable Healthcare Act, eliminating the threat of Bin Laden, environmental reform through carbon emission reductions, dealing with the nuclear weapon debacle with longtime adversary Iran, and the list goes on. Republican opponent Mitt Romney took the combative approach, attacking some of the most polarizing policies that Obama presented for his first term in office. 

Illustration by Nate Garcia.

Romney’s campaign, “Believe in America,” was primarily focused on reversing President Obama’s economic policies, obliterating Obamacare, and reevaluating the buffering of natural resource preservation. By a 4.3 percent margin, Obama carried the Democratic vote with him into his second and final term in office. 

Four years later, the election of 2016 tore into the past promises of belief, hope, and forward thinking. Then, Republican candidate Donald Trump and then Democratic candidate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had no problems muddying their hands during rallies throwing out obscene and childish cadences like “Lock her up!” or “a sexual assaulter.” “Make America Great Again” and “Stronger Together” were some of the biggest piles of bull that the American people could ingest. After the seemingly regular and sensible campaign trail that led the nation to the 2012 election, the nightmare that was Trump v. Clinton seemed as though the normal divide of red and blue was now worlds apart, and with every tweet and speech, this partisan gap grew greater. 

The question that lies here: is Trump to blame for the political ruins that surround us? Have no fear, one man cannot single handedly wipe clean the concept of a healthy partisan election. Though, the hyper-partisan extremities that feeds the hostility in the current 2020 election can be traced back to the 2016 election, aren’t we all to blame? 

The 2016 presidential elections turned everything that the nation thought they knew about elections on its head. From the beginning of time, we’ve been taught to always root for the good guy. The underdog. The nominee with a hopeful and promising campaign for our future. These morally wholesome values haven’t been lost on the American public, but it seems as though the idea of electing a ‘good’ candidate has been replaced with eliminating the ‘bad’ candidate. And with this logic, the point of an election becomes not to establish a promising positive campaign, but rather build an arsenal of negative debates on moral character.

 Despite the candidates’ foul-mouthed pleas for surrender toward their rival, both Trump and Clinton also held extensive public histories with impressively awful public records. Trump held Clinton by her neck for her famed email scandal, and Clinton to Trump with his Stormy Daniels accusations. To parallel the two, at the start of his 2008 campaign, Obama faced racist conspiracies of his citizenship, claiming he was a terrorist and convicting him of socialism. Romney faced claims of racism for a past negotiation on a welfare cut and that he played a part in an Olympic bribery scandal that “helped fund his campaign,” as says Vanity Fair. The undeniable differences here are the spread of questionable “fake news” by the public versus between the two nominees. 

The fight between red and blue has never been so personal. The 2010s have found themselves ending with an enormous split between parties for no reason other than the fact that because of Clinton’s and Trump’s inappropriate behavior during their 2016 campaigns. The rest of the nation from then on has felt an approval to act just as abrasively. And this hostility has continued to grow and grow every day since, heightening the tension. The biased commentary of the public paired with each candidate’s bias commentary on each other is leading to a constant spew of unnecessary opinions. 

So what did happen? The idea of a fair presidential campaign was left to die and a new concept of an aggressive contest about defamation of character has emerged. With the help of Trump and our own attitudes, we’ve started a slow descent into some kind of political popularity contest, and it’s left the nation split wide open.