About a month ago I put out a post about trying to discern why we are so divided. I mentioned that I was reading two books on the topic, one from a conservative writer and one from a progressive. In this post is the second installment in that series. I recently completed both books as shown here and what I found about the source of this divide was not unexpected. But, what was is the magnitude of the problem.
Ezra Klein, who is a progressive, talked quite a bit about the statistics whereas David French, who was the conservative, spent much of the book talking about the magnitude of the feelings among the MAGA clan. I won’t bore you with all the details of the books. Instead, I will come out and give you the final thoughts of the authors via a couple of quotes from each.
Let’s start with the Progressive view:
We are so locked into our political identities that there is virtually no candidate, no information, no condition, that can force us to change our minds. We will justify almost anything or anyone so long as it helps our side, and the result is a politics devoid of guardrails, standards, persuasion, or accountability.Klein, Ezra. Why We’re Polarized
Politics devoid of guardrails, standards, persuasion, or even accountability is primarily where I see we are today. The GOP was once known as the party of fiscal responsibility. That has been completely discarded in the last dozen or more years. The only thing they stand for now is a party of trying to hold on to White Privilege. Budgets mean nothing to them, even the candidates are meaningless. It’s all about the war of survival.
Republicans are overwhelmingly dependent on white voters. Democrats are a coalition of liberal whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. Republicans are overwhelmingly dependent on Christians…. But those are two very different party structures. Sorting has made the Democrats into a coalition of difference and driven Republicans further into sameness. As a result, appealing to Democrats requires appealing to a lot of different kinds of people with different interests. It means winning liberal whites in New Hampshire and traditionalist blacks in South Carolina. It means talking to Irish Catholics in Boston and the karmically curious in California. Democrats need to go broad to win over their party and, as we’ll see, they need to reach into right-leaning territory to win power. Republicans can afford to go deep.Klein, Ezra. Why We’re Polarized (p. 230). Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
I think by these quotes it is obvious that Democrats have the more difficult challenge short term. It kinda reminds me of the idea of “herding cats”. Everyone knows that is an almost impossible task. I doubt there is very much common experiences between the New Hampshire liberal and the SC African American. How do you keep that coalition together?
Now on to the Conservative view of our division:
We increasingly loathe our political opponents. The United States is in the grip of a phenomenon called “negative polarization.” In plain English this means that a person belongs to their political party not so much because they like their own party but because they hate and fear the other side. Republicans don’t embrace Republican policies so much as they despise Democrats and Democratic policies. Democrats don’t embrace Democratic policies as much as they vote to defend themselves from Republicans. At this point, huge majorities actively dislike their political opponents and significant minorities see them as possessing subhuman characteristics. Moreover, each of these realities is set to get worse. Absent unforeseen developments, the present trends are self-reinforcing.French, David A. Divided We Fall (p. 2). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Of course, evidence of this war is Mitch McConnell. He has totally abandoned anything resembling party principles or ethics. His main goal during the last 4 years has been to appoint as many lifetime federal judges. Virtually nothing else is even a remote second to him.
Neither author seems to have much hope for the future. They just don’t see a way for this polarization to end. That is depressing indeed! Neither of these books were easy to read. I am an optimist at heart and have to believe that there is a way out of this abyss. But, it might take a generation or two to make that happen. If we have that long?
More on that in a future Monday Post.