THE VICTIMIZATION OF THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT IN THE 2020 POLITICAL CULTURE
In 2020, it appears that the whole country is deeply invested in American political discourse. From the Black Lives Matter movement to mask-less rebellions to social media, there is no escaping the onslaught of opinions as one of the most historic elections approaches in November. And just like a school yard showdown, the Republicans and Democrats have their cliques armed and ready to attack the other until the final battle at the voting booth. The only issue is the group of outcasts or misfits sitting in that same playground who simply do not fit in with the “cool kids.” This group of individuals sits on the sidelines watching the mud-slinging, hate speech, and predictable rhetoric with no voice to be heard on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times to name a few.
This paradigm is nothing new and certainly should not be viewed as pity party, because in actuality, it is folks like myself and other like-minded citizens that are going to decide this election and have to deal with the repercussions therein. Many of my closest friends asked me on November 9, 2016 and thereafter, “How could Donald Trump win this election? How could it have possibly happened?!” At first, I did not have an answer because I was equally as stunned as they were. It is unfathomable to believe that an overweight real estate tycoon who likes his steak cooked well done with ketchup who has absolutely no political experience could be the leader of the free world. But the reality was that on November 8, 2016, Donald Trump generated 306 electoral votes, which permitted him to take the highest executive office in the land and forever change the course of American history. When the dust settled, I thought deeply about the existential question- how could this have happened? BBC News opined that one of the major reasons Trump won was because he was an “outsider.” He beat all of the competition even in his own party including career politician Jeb Bush who Trump deemed as “low energy.” Many would also argue that Trump won because Hillary Clinton was a “bad candidate.” It was no secret that leading up to the 2016 election that Hillary had major opposition, scandal, and a controversial presence on the national stage. I supported Hillary Clinton because she had the necessary experience in a wide array of governmental roles to take on the presidency after Barack Obama. Despite my personal feelings and ideologies, Hillary was defeated and Donald Trump rose to power like a phoenix from some very unexpected ashes. What occurred after the election in 2016 was the most telling. Donald Trump fumbled into office clearly not expecting to have pulled off such a miraculous feat. The Democrats gnawed at the bit to find any flaw, criticism, misstep, gaffe, or mistake the President made to personify to the American public that they had made a monumental mistake.
Fast forward four years and the amplification of party tensions has escalated to an all-time high. On Facebook, my friends, neighbors, colleagues, family, and acquaintances all have some sort of statement to make about what other people believe and how that signifies their identity. People have publicly posted that if their Facebook friends support Donald Trump that they should unfriend them. Others on the opposite side of the aisle have labeled those advocating for social justice in the wake of George Floyd’s wrongful death as “terrorists” or “Anarchists.” As an observer rather than a commenter, I read these disparaging comments in my own state of disbelief. For many, I have known these people for a significant period of time and value my relationships with them as they are human beings living together in the same world. Out of fear of being ridiculed by either side, I remained silent on trending political issues especially the upcoming 2020 election.
Remaining silent on political discourse or not taking a divisive stand that represents either major political parties’ ideologies is apparently the new taboo. At a recent dinner outing with a very close and dear friend of mine, he relayed that I must vote in the upcoming election because he insisted that we have to remove Donald Trump from office. After attempting to politely decline discussing the topic, I was eventually reduced to responding, “I do not have to do anything,” which is the reality in our American Democracy. No citizen is forced to or should be compelled by others to vote in any sort of way. It is the fundamental American birth right to exercise our first amendment rights as we deem fit. America broke from the tyrannical confines of the British Monarch for the simple ability to choose freely. In responding to my impassioned friend, I explained that neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump represented my political ideologies and therefore, I would not be voting for either candidate.
Choosing to abstain from voting for the US presidency is a very difficult decision because some would argue it is presumably handing the vote to the incumbent, Donald Trump. While that argument may be compelling if coupled with empirical evidence, it is not a controlling argument. No American should feel obligated to exercise a vote for a candidate that they cannot reconcile in their own conscience. “So you are okay with Donald Trump getting reelected because you refuse to vote for Biden?” I often hear people ask as if to guilt and pressure me more into aligning with their political self-interests. The presumption that I am “okay” with a speculative result occurring because of a presumed failure of myself to act in a certain way is selfish and demonstrates that the bigger piece of the puzzle is being grossly ignored. The real existential question is “How is it okay that Americans are forced to vote for a lackadaisical career politician with clear cognitive impairments compared to thousands of other more qualified and robust alternatives?” The response I often receive is, “Well that’s who the nominee is and you just need to get on board.” And it’s that two party, do or die mentality, that has divided our country into two monumental rival forces. On the whole, Americans have ideological preferences that span the political spectrum. It would be logical to be able to choose a candidate, even if not completely perfect, that represents a cross section of the US population. And realistically, the president should be representing all people not just ones that identify with a gridlocked set of “ideals” that a group of people deemed applicable. In 2020, those who think critically along these lines who want a better America that represents fiscal and social paradigms from both parties are inherently cast aside.
The evolution of political divisiveness seen in the 2020 political climate easily dates back to the American Revolution. Political tensions heavily divided communities and pro-British loyalists were often publicly humiliated and their property destroyed.  With the emerging wave of patriotism came overt and striking propaganda aimed at “fence sitters” to pick a side in the impending movement to separate from Britain. Across the country, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” a pamphlet advocating for independence in the 13 colonies, was passed around as Gospel and was strictly used for the purposes of influencing those who did not want to or refused to take a side in the matter. For many citizens at that time, people wanted to maintain their quality of life and did not seek to the radically change their social and economic climate. Because of the perception of the gross injustices imposed by the tyrannical monarch, many patriots did not believe this “let it ride” mentality was acceptable. Therefore, pro-Independence activists exerted as much dominion and control as possible over political independents knowing that without their support, a revolution would likely fail.
In 2020, the liberals argue that America cannot afford another four years of Donald Trump. Some have gone as far to say that if Trump is reelected “Democracy as we know it will cease to exist.” Similarly, Republicans have opined that if Joe Biden is elected that our democracy will convert to a socialist state. Similarly to the American Revolution, advocates from the right and left have resorted to extraordinary measures to sway independents to supporting their political platform. Anti-mask protesters congregated in Lansing, Michigan strapped with guns and high-end artillery to send a clear and poignant message regarding their opposition to their Governor’s COVID-19 mandates. Certain proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement have transitioned from peaceful protesting to looting and rioting in urban areas across the country. Strictly on the presidential level, social media has allowed disparaging political propaganda to spread like wildfire. With images of the president on a leash and Joe Biden having early onset dementia, it leaves contemporary independents with an influx of influential illusory data with nowhere to seek refuge.
Both political parties maintain that “the stakes have never been higher” in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Respectfully, that is a crock of garbage. This line of argument is used during every presidential election as means of strong-arming independents by using fear tactics as a method of influence. On November 6, 2012, the Baltimore Sun released an Op-Ed saturated with loaded imagery about how the 2012 midterm election was the most vital because of how badly George W. Bush left the economy.  After Obama won in 2012 upon defeating Mitt Romney, it was seemingly “forgotten” that Bush was such a “disaster” of a president as he was seen in a famous picture being coddled by former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Moreover, the “stakes” of the 2000 election were even more critical because the decision was ultimately made by the Supreme Court in December of 2000. The Tampa Bay Times, in an effort to encourage voters to appear in-person on election day in 2016, released an article indicating that the “stakes have never been higher” when Trump faced establishment Democrat Hillary Clinton. Yet, four years later, that same predictable rhetoric is repeated ad nauseam regarding the 2020 election where the US has already suffered almost four years of Donald Trump’s reality show leadership. Despite harboring this sentiment into the 2020 election, the Democrats chose out of millions of Americans, Joe Biden, as their executive savior. If the “stakes have never been higher” mentality was compelling, the Democrats would have been inclined to persuade independents with thee most robust and hegemonic leader who could drive that narrative to victory in November. And for the Republicans, it is foolish and inherently outrageous to insist in retaining Donald Trump as President when his failed leadership has resulted in major domestic social unrest with cities burning to the ground and over 221,000 (as of October 21, 2020) corona virus deaths across the country. Donald Trump’s argument at the Republican National Convention on August 27, 2020 that the 2020 election is the most important in history fails because America has already seen with its own eyes the results of his decision making and inability to unite the Republic.
American independents comprise of citizens who do not declare allegiance to one political party or set of ideologies. The United States represents diverse groups of people from countries all over the world. With that amount of immense diversity, it is inherently problematic to group people into two camps and force them to vote for a flawed candidate. George Washington warned about this paradigm when he stated “‘The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.’ John Adams, Washington’s successor, similarly worried that “a division of the republic into two great parties … is to be dreaded as the great political evil.” Hyper-partisanship at the Presidential level has allowed national leadership to only reflect ideologies that fit two specific platforms. Independents are victimized because they have no recourse and are subject to the repercussions of the two parties’ competition and election byproduct. As this perpetual predictable cycle continues every four years, the possibility of change and evolution in political theory is compromised. Therefore, millions of Americans remain voiceless as the same rich career politicians advance their self-interested agendas. In our current political circus, the first Presidential debate on September 29, 2020 demonstrated that two old men bickering and interrupting each other is the sole representation for the highest executive office in America. Numerous Americans prayed for a third, fourth, or even fifth candidate to rise from below the stage and save our democracy from the reality show that the presidential office has devolved into before our very eyes.
It is time for America to wake up and expand the prowess of the executive branch by electing Presidents that represent our diverse citizens. Instead of using dominating scare tactics to persuade the vulnerable to vote for one major party, collective action should be taken to expand the reach of executive elections to those who possess critical thinking skills and problem-solving mechanisms. Having to choose a President between a 47-year career politician and a Celebrity Apprentice TV star is simply unacceptable in modern America. It is an absolute disservice to the American people as we deserve far better than mediocrity and complacency. The American People want to have a leader who defends our country and speaks for its people and not just the ones that are submissive to the political machine. American Independents have a voice and should not be bullied, cornered, ridiculed, or embarrassed to have their voice heard. Until the two-party system is “defunded” or “reformed” (however you want to label it) America will be gridlocked in a hamster’s wheel of repetitive discourse destructive of our ideals and our democracy.
 Detwiler, Susan. “The stakes for a presidential election have never been higher” The Baltimore Sun. November 6, 2012.
 TexasMonthly released an article “Are We Ready to Rehabilitate George W. Bush’s Repulation?” The article emphasizes Bush’s “decorum,” which Donald Trump is severely lacking. Again, people are willing to look past Bush’s past faults as they compare them to what Trump has done in the past four years.
 “Editorial: Time to vote the old-fashioned way.” Tampa Bay Times. November 7, 2016.
 Drutman, Lee. “America is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared.” The Atlantic. January 2, 2020.