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I just don’t get it. Do you?

Anyone who even casually follows politics has to admit it seems we are more divided now than ever.

I would say we are more divided now than in my lifetime.

Yes, I am old, but not old enough to know what level of division we were at, say, leading up to the Civil War, in which we fought against ourselves and killed over 600,000 Americans.

I would hope and pray we are nowhere close to that today, but, if the division continues to widen, it certainly can’t be healthy for our future.

There have been many political parties in our history, but, for the last 150 years, it has been the big two: Republicans and Democrats that rule the roost. And today we are led to believe you are either a Democrat or a Republican, but that is not the case. In an ongoing Gallup poll, when asked the question, “Do you consider yourself a Democrat or a Republican?”, the answer may surprise us.

As of December 2021, the poll indicates 29% of us are Republican, 31% are Democrats, and 37% of us are independents. Yes, there are more folks who identify as independents than either of the two major parties.

Now, let’s look at who we elected to Congress and the Senate. Currently there are 264 Republicans, 273 Democrats and only two independents.

So I ask you: Is Washington reflective of our political affiliations? Of course not. And this may be the reason we see so much division.

Another question I had is, which party is growing the fastest? Again we may be surprised.

In the past 10 years, according to the same Gallup poll, those who identify as Republicans are down 3%. Those who identify as Democrats are down 1%. And those who identify as independents are up 5%.

Independents are growing the fastest.

That leads us to another question: Why?

I am just an old retired newspaper publisher, and I don’t know the answer, but I am still allowed to speculate, aren’t I?

I believe it is because collectively we are frustrated with the two-party system, in which the party in power does everything to stay in power and the party not in power does everything to get back in power. So the cycle continues, and much of the work we need to get done as a country gets caught up in the political struggle and remains undone.

And here’s another question. If the fastest-growing affiliations are independents, why doesn’t Washington see that? Instead, they seem to be moving in the wrong direction, meaning either further to the right or left, instead of meeting us in the middle, where most voters are.

Well, clearly, in my eyes, there is a major breakdown somewhere between where we live and vote and what happens when those we elect go to Washington.

You see, even I, as a self-proclaimed political junkie, don’t wake up each morning and think about political parties. I — and most likely you, too — wake up and get on with our day. We are busy getting kids off to school, getting ready for work, paying our bills and trying to put food on the table.

Somehow, I don’t think mornings are like that for Congress. I believe they wake up and think about how they are going to stay in office and how much money they need to raise for this year’s election and how they can make the party look good and the other party look bad.

If so, I say that’s no way to run a country.

So, my final question: Where do we go from here?

It’s an election year for all of the House of Representatives and about one-third of the Senate. When handed our ballot come November, we will most likely see a Republican and a Democrat on it, and will have seen countless television ads for both of them.

But what if there is another candidate on the ballot, an independent for example? Will we even consider them? Probably not, although the majority of us identify as independents, according to Gallup.

Since I believe one of the major problems in Washington is extreme partisanship, my vote will go to the person I think will work to unite us, not divide us, work across party lines for the good of all Americans and not just the good of their party. I will look past the TV, radio, and online ads and search out more information on each candidate.

I want my vote to go to someone who will help close the great divide, not widen it.

OK, I do have one more question: Since Congress’ approval rate is only 21%, meaning 79% of us do not approve of the job performance of the current Congress, why is it — if history is correct — we will reelect 98% of them?

I just don’t get it.

Do you?

Feel free to enlighten me at gregawtry@awtry.com.

Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at gregawtry@awtry.com.

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