A two-lane road along the dense forest with packed snow in Manchester, New Hampshire was quiet. Uber driver Robert Fagan who had been silently driving became quite chatty when U.S. President Donald Trump was brought up.
“Four more years? No! If he is reelected, my wife will have a heart attack,” the driver said. “We can’t deal with him anymore.”
To a question asking why he dislikes President Trump so much, the white male in his 60s mentioned the trump’s racist comments, Ukraine scandal, and tweets. “Voting for him is the same as voting for a criminal,” said Fagan banging the steering wheel. He showed very extreme reactions, which made me wonder why an ordinary citizen hates the president of his country so much.
The responses of Democratic supporters who I met at the New Hampshire primary were not so different from Fagan’s. “I’ve never thought I would see a president like Trump in my entire life. I will vote for anybody who can win against him,” said Sylvia Budoen at a polling station in Concord, the capital city of New Hampshire. “I hate everything about President Trump,” said Tricia King in her 30s.
Such strong opposition against President Trump is not just limited to New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Republican supports are the complete opposite. The president’s campaign held in the same location as if to compete directly against the Democratic candidates’ campaign was welcomed with tremendous enthusiasm. The 12,000 crowds manically chanted, “Lock her up,” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Thousands of people who couldn’t find a spot in the completely filled campaign rally raised their heads to watch President Trump on a large screen outside. The rows of their “TRUMP” red caps stood out in the dark and cold winter weather. “Have you ever seen such an honest and outspoken president?” said Robert Ampy at the rally. “He will be certainly reelected.”
The real politics is like a game sharing power 51 to 49. Policies and political opinions divide and unite people. However, what I saw at campaign rallies in the U.S. was an extreme division, presenting hatred, cynicism, and contempt under the “pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump” structure.
Such political division leads to division among people, which creates a vicious cycle of polarizing the political circles. The fragmented public sentiment and politics make reasonable discussions on policies challenging. Division in the U.S. has been worsening due to economic polarization and a 30 percent increase of illegal immigrants in the last 10 years, which is thought to be at its worst after the impeachment investigation of President Trump. The gap between Democratic and Republican approval ratings for the president’s performance is wider than ever.
Such emotional division not only makes policy implementation difficult but also increases hatred crimes and worsens social issues. Criticism and attack against each other will become more intense as the U.S. presidential election gets closer and campaigns become more enthusiastic. This is the bare face of division in the U.S., from which South Korea take lessons.