A Declaration of American Independents

Dismissing independent thinking will generate a ferocious cycle of increasing extremities


NBC News

The Storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, resulted from increased political polarization.

Political polarization would result in the “ruins of public liberty,” Former President George Washington wrote in his “Farewell Address.” Although his speech was never publicly delivered, the Address first appeared on September 19, 1796, in the Philadelphia Daily American Advertiser and was later distributed across the nation. 

Alongside various other warnings, Washington’s “Farewell Address” outlined the detriment of political factionalism: the creation of political parties. Great political divisiveness was bound to occur and tear the nation apart, he must have thought. Now, more than two centuries later, Washington could not have been more right. 

Over the years of American independence, the U.S. has had its fair share of domestic conflicts, from disputes over the use of certain taxes and tariffs to our foreign policy programs.

But even at these so-called low points of American disunity, the majority of Republicans and Democrats did not hold strong feelings against the opposing party. According to a report by Pew Research Center, amidst the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” 17 percent of Republicans had very unfavorable opinions of Democrats. Likewise, only 16 percent of Democrats viewed members of the Republicans extremely unfavorably.

As of 2014, however, these extremely negative views had more than doubled: 43 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats viewed the opposite party in strongly negative terms. This trend of decreasing political unity continued during the Trump administration (from 2017-2021), reaching the lowest levels of political unity, according to the Vanderbilt Project on Unity and American Democracy. Events such as the Storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, prove that Trump created a very powerful supporter community, which, in turn, has resulted in even more political extremes.

In recent years, political polarization has manifested in many ways, including increased partisanship in Congress, more extreme political rhetoric, and greater disagreement among Americans on key policy issues. This has contributed to a widening gap between the two major political parties and a growing sense of tribalism among their respective supporters.

— Gerard Blake ('24), an avid follower of American politics

As Gerard mentioned, it seems as if voters of this generation are either strong supporters or complete haters of any respective party.

Audrey Lin (‘25) added, “l feel like people in the two main parties often view the other side as completely wrong or even delusional, which unfortunately leads to more close-mindedness from both sides and unwillingness to respect or even listen to the opposing side.” 

These sorts of political extremes are worrying. Not only does it increase the chances of similar events to the Storming of the Capitol occurring more frequently, but it prevents citizens from truly understanding what they need and want out of a political candidate. Citizens must consider their individual demands (such as needing more accessible health care or more frequent food stamps, depending on their individual situations), before simply voting for the most popular candidate of their respective party.

As a debater myself, I find the Congressional Debate event invaluable. The pieces of legislation that student senators debate are not labeled as Democratic or Republican proposals. Instead, we simply argue for what side we think will be the most viable for the nation. 

Also a Congressional Debater, Gerard explained, “To some degree, I have found myself agreeing with bills that would not be part of the political party I would associate myself with.” He continued, “This is because you can actually look at the facts behind a bill and not be blinded by political rhetoric.”

From her own experience in Congressional Debate, Audrey added, “When we participate in congressional debate and choose the affirmation or negation side, we don’t consider the things that actual U.S. Senators might be considering (i.e. ‘was this bill proposed by the _____ party?’).” 

She concluded that while the procedures of Congressional Debate are not a perfect parallel to voters’ decisions, “I actually think that this more-nonpartisan mindset allows the debate to be more about morals and beliefs, and less about political parties. If we consider a bill ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative,’ it limits our thinking and we jump to conclusions before even researching or understanding the bill.”

The extreme risks that come with political polarization are endless. According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, not only does severe polarization undermine the independence of the judicial branch, but it habitually results in the manipulation of governmental roles and encourages the destructive perspective that the president only serves their own supporters, rather than the entire nation. 

Generating a ferocious cycle of increasing extremities, polarization not only affects the country as a whole but also individual relationships. In Turkey, for example, almost 80 percent of people are against their daughter marrying someone that votes for the opposite party; and nearly 75 percent would not even want to interact with such a person. 

While a completely non-partisan government may not be in America’s future for quite some time, or ever, citizens must realize the value of independent thinking in the next election, especially for the younger generations. Marianna Pecora (‘22), the Deputy Communications Director for Digital Engagement at Voters of Tomorrow (an ​​organization with “the guiding goal of building youth political power,” according to their official website), shared, “Gen Z-ers…have to live under and work for the progress we want to see [in] a system that was built above us.” 

Marianna concluded, “Progress is going to be slow, but it will be rewarding and help us build the future we want for ourselves.” 

So, if America’s youth want any chance at eventually breaking our grievous cycle of political extremities, you know what to do. Consider your needs; weigh your options; and vote independently.