Although the United States is, as the name suggests, a united country, our nation was formed as a union between independent states which prioritized the ideal of federalism. An advantage that arises from this arrangement is that each state has the ability to act independently when making certain legal decisions. This means states can pass laws like the legalization of recreational marijuana on a state level, even though it is illegal under federal law. Although marijuana usage did increase and more dispensaries opened up, the law did not significantly change the lives of most Californians. However, not all bills that are passed have such little impact on the lives of the people who live in those states.
In 2021, the United States saw the highest number of laws that restricted abortion than it ever had. Texas made headlines when Governor Greg Abbott signed the Texas Heartbeat Act into law, which stated that any abortions in the state of Texas are unlawful if conducted after the detection of fetal cardiac activity. This restriction effectively prevents all abortions in Texas after the six-week mark, which is when the fetus’ heartbeat is typically heard. The Supreme Court, which denied the request by abortion providers to send the law back to a Texas district judge who had once stopped it, voted (5-4) for the bill in its earlier stages to go into effect. The Heartbeat Act, which has exponentially increased the difficulty for those looking to terminate their pregnancy, is just one of the many recent pieces of legislation that has had a devastating effect on residents.
A major reason for the recent rise of conservative bills in place is due to the change in the Republican party’s attitude. While the 2016 election was disappointing for many, it brought a shift for both parties. Even though both Democrats and Republicans grew closer to their own core values, the Republican party started to attack issues they cared about more aggressively. This change, which can be assumed to have been encouraged by some of former Republican President Donald Trump’s policies, has led to focus on issues such as ballot access, guns, and abortions. In addition to that, Trump’s platform has shifted a moderate GOP voting population towards a more conservative one. While stereotypes can be made about Republican voters today, it holds some truth. Data from the National American Election Studies shows that in 2004, around 17% of Republicans were 65 years old or older. In 2010, that percentage rose to over 25%.
While states like Texas exercise their legal rights, many are being reminded of the extreme polarization of politics in the United States. Both parties have clear-cut ideas and values, most of which most voters can’t completely align their own values with. As a solution to this, some have suggested voting or funding other parties. Parties like the Green Party, have seen a recent increase in votes. But for a country that has been dominated by two major parties for the past couple hundred years, that doesn’t seem like a possibility in the near future. The past couple of years has shown how the control of a state senate, federal senate, or even the Supreme Court can change rapidly. A Democratic president may sit in the White House today, but there is no guarantee that it will happen in 2024 or 2028 or any of the elections after that. If there is one thing that is certain, it is that politics in America remain uncertain.