From the Left
Former President Donald Trump has recently championed rhetoric that exacerbates America’s partisan polarization by extrapolating his personal legal troubles, and his perceived political persecution, to the voters who support him.
Under Trump’s “THEY DID IT TO US” framing, “you” aren’t just a voter with your own agency; rather, “you” are an integral part of Trump’s “us.” Thus, anything that happens to him also happens to you. Furthermore, you become rhetorically separated from anyone who gets placed in the “them” bucket — potentially including Joe Biden, Democrats, the “deep state,” the “Left,” or anyone who supports them.
In the face of this kind of framing, it is worth reminding ourselves that we are not who we vote for.
Tying your sense of personal security to individual politicians' legal or political ambitions may give them loyal supporters, but it gives you nothing but fear.
At the risk of appearing to take a side, it’s worth noting the specific role Trump has played in this dynamic. Of course, plenty of other politicians have played at similar kinds of partisan loyalty — in 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden apologized for saying, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
Trump, however, has made his rhetoric overtly personal — proclaiming in 2016 that, “I alone can fix it.” This rhetoric, as well as his actions, helped lead some Republicans to directly critique Trump, actively campaign against him, or even stop identifying as Republicans.
Let’s zoom out. Much of modern partisan polarization is driven by an understandable emotional motivation to justify one’s voting choices — to prove that you made the right call. Otherwise, you’d be part of the problem!
When extrapolating this to the level of parties, voters increasingly identify themselves with Democrats or Republicans — whichever group affirms their voting choices.
Identifying oneself with individual politicians is a step beyond normal polarization, further atomizing your identity and isolating you from your ability to critically evaluate your own loyalties. You don’t just need to feel justified — you need your politician to get their way, whether they’re right or not.
That’s why it’s important to remember that you aren’t the party you voted for, you aren’t your president, you aren’t your congressperson, you aren’t your governor, you aren’t Joe Biden, and, yes, you aren’t Donald Trump.
Joseph Ratliff is a Content Designer at AllSides. He has a Lean Left bias.
This piece was reviewed by Henry A. Brechter, Editor in Chief (Center bias), Andy Gorel, News Curator (Center bias), Krystal Woodworth, Project Manager and Executive Assistant (Center bias), and Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).