Politics is a realm of intellectual conversation that is rarely easy to discuss. However, in the past decade, specifically in the past election cycle, I believe that politics have gone from a conversation of decorum and dispute to a mess of slander and toxic comments between all members involved. So what happened? I believe that there are two main factors that have produced the political mess of recent years: politicians and the media. These factors have caused politics to decay, which has caused riffs between Americans.
The first issue is with the politicians themselves. This is not to say that politicians are inherently bad individuals; they are the representatives of the greater population, meant to serve the public and their interests. Many members of the general population make the bold claim that politicians are in office to serve their own desires. Does this claim have any warrant? Unfortunately, I do believe that there is cause to make these claims. The country has been hit with scandal after scandal for the past decade. It is difficult to pinpoint an exact number of scandals that have occurred in politics in the United States in the last decade, but an article done by Susan Craig, William Rashbaum, and Thomas Kaplan for the New York Times give a small example of the corruption occurring. According to the article, “In the past decade, more than 30 current or former state officeholders in New York have been convicted of crimes, sanctioned or otherwise accused of wrongdoing.” In New York alone, there were 30 politicians accused of corruption. This corruption causes people to foster distrust, not just toward the people who represent them, but also toward the people who talk about politics as a whole. This dissent causes people to question the validity of politics. The root of political toxicity lies within the lies of politicians. Politicians such as Anthony Weiner, Roy Moore, and Bill Clinton not only tarnish their party’s respective reputation, but bring the question of if other politicians are corrupt. This fear is irrational, but there is still a grain of truth to it.
The second catalyst to political toxicity is the media. One of the largest issues in the broader realms of the media is news bias. News bias is the process by which facts and stories are warped to fit an agenda from either side. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter hammer the average user with news feeds all day long. I know that I get rather exhausted of the bombardment. After doing research, I believe that there is a rather easy way to find fake news. When you look at a post, look for two key details. First, does it refer to the opposing party in a menacing way? Then it is probably not a reliable source. Sources such as Occupy Democrats and The Blaze tend to be more polarized in their approach. Unfortunately, this leads to the spread of polarized information, and with it, very polarized views. Soon, people end up in a verbal fisticuffs with one another on social media. What is shocking is that people take these news sources as factual. There are so many good, reliable sources out there, that the fact people do not look at them is startling. We live in an era of technology, where not looking at sources such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, is rather depressing. In the time that is used looking at random posts of cats and biased politics, people could spend time reading articles by well-versed pundits.
Toxicity in politics is pleasant to no one. It divides the country and spreads false information to the masses, causing more toxic behavior to take root. With the scandals hitting politicians and news outlets covering false stories, the fate of politics can seem rather dire and hopeless. However, there is still hope for the American people. One of the largest contributions that a member of society can do is stay informed. Research stories that do not seem to be adding up, look at various sources before forming an opinion. We as Americans live in an era where information is literally at our fingertips, with smart devices and the internet. The excuse of “never having enough time” is no longer valid in this day and age of innovation. It is the burden of the citizens to stay knowledgeable about the ongoings of the political realm, and to hold lawmakers and servants of the people accountable for their actions. It is possible to shed away the toxic nature enveloping politics, but it starts with all of us as citizens.