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(32,755 posts)
Mon May 23, 2022, 04:17 AM May 2022

No established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S.

The Doom Spiral of Pernicious Polarization
The U.S. is more dangerously divided than any other wealthy democracy. Is there a way back from the brink?

By Yascha Mounk

Until a few decades ago, most Democrats did not hate Republicans, and most Republicans did not hate Democrats. Very few Americans thought the policies of the other side were a threat to the country or worried about their child marrying a spouse who belonged to a different political party.

All of that has changed. A 2016 survey found that 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans would now balk at their child’s marrying a supporter of a different political party. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, the Pew Research Center reported that roughly nine out of 10 supporters of Joe Biden and of Donald Trump alike were convinced that a victory by their opponent would cause “lasting harm” to the United States.

As someone who lived in many countries—including Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom—before coming to the United States, I have long had the sense that American levels of partisan animosity were exceptionally high. Although I’d seen animosity between left and right in other nations, their hatred never felt so personal or intense as in the U.S.

A study just published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace confirms that impression. Drawing on the Variety of Democracies (V-Dem) data set, published by an independent research institute in Sweden that covers 202 countries and goes back more than two centuries, its authors assess to what degree each country suffers from “pernicious” levels of partisan polarization. Do their citizens have such hostile views of opponents that they’re willing to act in ways that put democracy itself at risk?

The authors’ conclusion is startling: No established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S. “For the United States,” Jennifer McCoy, the lead author of the study and a political-science professor at Georgia State University, told me in an interview, “I am very pessimistic.”

On virtually every continent, supporters of rival political camps are more likely to interact in hostile ways than they did a few decades ago. According to the Carnegie study, “us versus them polarization” has been increasing since 2005. McCoy and her colleagues don’t try to explain the causes, though the rise of social media is obviously a contributing factor.


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(10,727 posts)
1. The level of anger in the US is unreal.
Mon May 23, 2022, 04:59 AM
May 2022

And that anger has been deliberately cultivated by leaders in the Republican Party as a strategy for winning elections, along with hatred of others. But two events seem to have sent the cultists of anger over the edge: the election of Barack Obama and the election of Donald Trump. The racists came out in full force with the election of a black man to an office they believed only for a white man, and they proceeded to put racial politics on a fast track to anger and hatred. The seeds were already there, and Trump simply exacerbated the situation by giving permission for the anger and hatred to come out into the open and to be acted on.

I think we will survive as a nation, but possibly not without some really dark years ahead. I hope to be wrong and hope for some leader who can take us off the precipice and start inspiring a society that believes in preserving the country more than in destroying the people they’ve been brainwashed to hate.


(154,585 posts)
2. I cannot compromise with racists, misogynists, xenophobia, climate change denial, class warfare, etc
Mon May 23, 2022, 05:00 AM
May 2022

no I cannot and WILL NOT


(154,585 posts)
7. I was so tired of being told I needed to "understand" Trump voters
Mon May 23, 2022, 06:36 AM
May 2022

I understand them all too well, which is why I fucking DESPISE them.


(44,613 posts)
3. 2005 is when the Bush Permanent Tax cuts began to steal everything
Mon May 23, 2022, 06:19 AM
May 2022

The roots of polarization are in economic inequality. The GOP has sold it as a culture war, but money is at the base of it.


(4,982 posts)
4. That's what you get when you allow a bunch of lying mouthpieces on radio and tv to spew garbage
Mon May 23, 2022, 06:22 AM
May 2022

all day to the unsuspecting public. Newspapers, Television and radio used to be held to a higher standard of information dissemination. This set up a false sense of trust that the general public gave to charlatans and snake oil salesman garbaging up the public airwaves starting in the 80's and continuing to this day. By the time the public was informed they were being propagandized against their own interests, it was too late. Laws were passed that entrenched these a-holes giving them a legitimacy they don't deserve. I knew we were in trouble when in the early 70's my late grandmother put a National Enquirer in her basket at the grocery store. When I asked her why she read that crap she replied "they wouldn't print it if it weren't true." It's been downhill ever since.

Ferrets are Cool

(21,228 posts)
10. The only thing I disagree with is that they are "unsuspecting".
Mon May 23, 2022, 07:43 AM
May 2022

They are willfully ignorant at best. Hate sponges describes these people more accurately.


(4,982 posts)
15. I will agree that is the case right now
Mon May 23, 2022, 05:02 PM
May 2022

but in the 70's & early 80's, it wasn't established fact yet. By unsuspecting I mean they were listening under false pretenses and didn't know it. Today, they have no excuse.


(2,681 posts)
6. This polarization can be laid at the feet of the GOTP.
Mon May 23, 2022, 06:32 AM
May 2022

They own it lock, stock and barrel.

I just hope the voting public realize that come November.


(52,292 posts)
8. The GOP has waged a psy-op war against Americans for decades.
Mon May 23, 2022, 07:01 AM
May 2022

It has been a brutal and ruthless campaign to divide and conquer.

Many Americans have become habituated to these tactics and feel hopeless and
overwhelmed. This is the goal, to make us give up and accept our new reality.

Who benefits? Internal and external enemies.


(71,088 posts)
9. "The GOP has waged a psy-op war against Americans for decades."
Mon May 23, 2022, 07:10 AM
May 2022

Yup! Reagan's getting of the fairness doctrine, the rise of hate talk radio and TV,
letting Rupert Murdoch into America, and now all these right wing disinformation
sites have all had their costs.


(133,556 posts)
11. I think part of the issue when doing analysis with comparisons like this
Mon May 23, 2022, 09:01 AM
May 2022

is that when talking about "politics", most of the rest of the world operates under a "Parliamentary" system of government (Mexico being one of the larger exceptions). So when you see a comment like this -

Although I’d seen animosity between left and right in other nations, their hatred never felt so personal or intense as in the U.S.

it behooves that one notes the author missed not only how different the U.S. government operates compared to the rest of the world, but how different the evolution of the U.S. has been from anywhere else in the world.

I.e., the whole rigorous exercise of "forming a government", often cobbled out of a myriad of individual parties, and that includes concepts such as "snap elections", and "standing down" before a current term is completed, diffuses the stark partisan "right/left" divide (outside of the extremists), and forces overt "compromises" when one party is unable to garner enough delegates and support to be "in the majority" in a Parliamentary session.

Meanwhile here, what has generally boiled down to 2 parties - "Democratic" and "Republican", with some scattered independent smaller parties, solidifies our either/or "divide" and requires a different effort that gathers individuals with different viewpoints from across the political spectrum, and invites them to "join" one or the other. And couple this with the fact that we generally have "fixed" terms and "fixed' federal general elections, means that whoever "gets in", "stays in" for their full term (absent resignation, death, or impeachment), and that notably impacts the head of the country - the President (whose title is not "ceremonial" as it is in other countries that have that position).

And the OP article briefly touches on this -

Jennifer McCoy affirmed this, when I asked her about the difference between the United States and other perniciously polarized democracies: “Unlike many other polarized democracies, we are not a tribal country based on ethnicity … The key identity is party, not race or religion.”

Well most of the rest of the world is homogeneous in terms of "race" (as defined by Europeans long ago), so their disputes then turned to "ethnicity". However I would disagree with the assertion that "the key identity is party, not race or religion", because that is pure rose-colored glasses, insular and tunnel-visioned bullshit.

This country is very much "racially", "ethnically", and "religiously" divided and that came about due to the pernicious, persistent, and continued dejure and defacto system of segregation by race, ethnicity, and religion, which meant that you have whole communities (whether rural villages, small towns or urban neighborhoods in cities), who by design or by choice, "live with" others from their own race, ethnicity, or religion.

And eventually, the "fireworks" can occur between these ethnic enclaves.

As an artistic example of this would be "West Side Story", which although was based off of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet", was given a setting and background of "Polish" vs "Puerto Ricans" in terms of the "Jets" vs the "Sharks".

You also have divisions that came about by "region", so even if you have a panopoly of ethnicities in a "region", there are "cultural norms" that those who live in those regions have adopted and any "outsiders" to that "culture" are looked upon with suspicion.

So given these dynamics, the 2 main parties here in essence "take advantage of" and often "exploit" these various "realities" to recruit voters into their fold.

What has definitely amplified this to the point where we are today is the proliferation of "access" through various communications (broadcast and internet) that have "exposed" different parts of a country (and a locale) to each other, and this is where each often insular group, sees the dramatic differences in worldview between themselves and others, and that often leads to a clash.


(33,301 posts)
14. I think we have always been a very divided nation. The difference now is fux snooz and toxic
Mon May 23, 2022, 10:10 AM
May 2022

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