The Daily Gamecock

Column: Upcoming presidential candidates must be more moderate

Far left-leaning and far right-leaning candidates are dividing the U.S., and the only way to end this fracturing is to

elect more moderate candidates, starting with the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

The "R" or "D" — denoting Republican and Democrat, respectively — beside a candidate's names is creating more animosity than goodwill in 2023, and something needs to change if we want a better government that focuses more on compromises and less on malice between parties. 

The large divide between Democrats and Republicans began in the 1980s, when a new age of conservatism began with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, according to political science professor Joshua Meyer-Gutbrod.

At that point, a partisan switch began throughout the country, and there was a shift among former southern Democrats who immigrated to the Republican party in a very short period of time. According to Meyer-Gutbrod, this can be attributed to the rise of the evangelical wing of the GOP and Cold War-era criticisms of Democrats. Thus, the competition between the U.S.’s two major parties began.

"The South moving from — in a period of 10 to 20 years — solidly Democratic, almost one-party Democratic, to solidly Republican," Meyer-Gutbrod said. "That caused a pretty big re-alignment."

The constant partisan fighting has forced more radical ideas to be developed, which makes candidates more polarizing and promotes demonization of the opposite party and "undermining the potential for collaboration" with the other side, Meyer-Gutbrod said.

The political spectrum just keeps getting broader, and Americans don't see an end. In a 2022 Quinnipiac University study, more than half of respondents said that political divisions in the United States would worsen over their lifetime.

Most people have more in common individually than is often portrayed, but politicians predominantly have created the strong divide in the political spectrum, according to Meyer-Gutbrod. In an analysis from No Labels, a political organization supporting centrism and bipartisanship, 59% of voters indicated that they would consider voting for a moderate third candidate if there was a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2024.

The key to national success in our near-future elections is candidates that are more moderate when they are campaigning. The truth is that most politicians vote for moderate bills but focus their campaigns on controversial issues while seldom presenting an action plan. Moderate candidates, however, will speak on the tougher details and consequences of their policies.

"If someone convinces you that there's an easy solution to some issue in American politics, or in politics more broadly, they're lying to you," Meyer-Gutbrod said.

The growth of "identity-conforming" news sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, and social media has also been significant in the large divide between the parties. Identity-conforming news sources tend to change the outlook on politics by setting an appealing agenda for one candidate while creating a hateful reputation for the other candidate(s).

The political destruction can also be attributed to social media's regulation of misinformation. Platforms including Instagram and X, formerly known as Twitter, use misinformation labels and warnings during election season in an attempt to make users aware of incorrect information. And while this is useful in theory, it can cause more harm than good as social media companies struggle to handle information properly and create an echo chamber based on what a user has already done on a platform. At the end of the day, they are social media companies, and they should not intervene in politics.


Overall, there is a lack of honest politicians, and it’s because it's hard to be truthful and still get the votes. There is no easy fix to issues that have been around for years or decades, and candidates like to use that to their advantage by avoiding the hard subjects, according to Meyer-Gutbrod.

Until politicians are incentivized to be honest and moderate — which in the end is what we need — the extremists are going to continue to win a majority. Voters need to do thorough research on candidates while avoiding social media accounts and news sources that only re-affirm their opinions.

The government is inherently moderate and should not be feared. The problem is with the extreme candidates, and it's up to us to end their time in government. Speak up, vote and read up on candidates as we head into another election season.