Americans Are Dangerously Divided (And Not Just Over Trump)

  

Category:  Op/Ed

Via:  gregtx  •  one month ago  •  19 comments

By:   Matt Lewis

Americans Are Dangerously Divided (And Not Just Over Trump)
Yes, we're growing ever more polarized. But this cultural civil war predates the 2015 Trump Tower escalator ride.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Is America coming apart at the seams? A new Generation Lab poll of rising college sophomores conducted for NBC News confirms that young Americans are segregating themselves along partisan lines.

And as Axios notes, 46 percent of respondents "said they would probably/definitelynot room with someone who supported the opposing presidential candidate in 2020 (62 percent of Dems, 28 percent of GOP)."

Meanwhile, 53 percent said they probably or definitely wouldn't date someone who supported the other team—and 63 percent said they wouldn't marry someone who supported the other party in 2020.

This partisan division is certainly a departure from America's past. Yet, this does not appear to be solely a Trump-induced phenomenon.

"In 1960, a mere 5 percent of Republican parents would have objected to [a child marrying someone of a different political party], according to a 2014 Vox article (citing research published in a 2012 paper by Shanto Iyengar, Gaurav Sood, and Yphtach Lelkes), "but by 2010, 49 percent said they'd be displeased."

Comparing parents' preferences regarding their children's spouses with college students' preferences doesn't map perfectly, but the trend is clear. What also seems clear is that this trend did not begin with Trump's 2015 escalator ride announcing his presidential candidacy.

Once again, Trump seems to be as much of a symptom of this trend as he is a cause or accelerant of it.

"...the political figure who is so outrageous and evil as to warrant cutting off friends and family is…Mitt Romney."

(Note: A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that "Among Democrats, 63 percent see Republicans as immoral," which rings true. But according to the data, this number is dramatically "up from just 35 percent who said so in 2016." When it comes to suggesting that this phenomenon is new, Pew's polling seems to be an outlier.)

Anecdotal cultural artifacts confirm that a lot of this polarization predates Trump. Think pieces about this subject abounded in 2014 (perhaps not coincidentally, author Greg Lukianoff traces the rise of "cancel culture" on college campuses to 2014, suggesting the ubiquity of social media was a contributor).

Take, for example, this 2014 piece in The Washington Post, which quotes someone named "Ollie" who had this to say on Facebook: "I don't want to have anything to do with someone who'd vote for Romney… I choose to take their support for Republicans as a personal attack on my right to control my body. Friendship can't survive that."

The author, a blogger and former teacher, goes on to say: "Once, I would have pitied anyone who cut off contact with a family member over political differences. That pity came from the privilege of imagining that the stakes were too low to matter. I see now just how high they are."

Again, it would be understandable if this piece had been written in 2021, after Trump attempted to overturn a free and fair election. What interests me is the convergence of a couple of things.

First, this dogmatic attitude is coming from the left (which flies in the face of the old stereotype about liberals being open-minded free spirits). Second, the political figure who is so outrageous and evil as to warrant cutting off friends and family is… Mitt Romney.

If Republicans felt threatened enough after Romney's loss in 2012 to embrace Donald Trump in 2016, to what degree did attitudes like this feed a sense of hopelessness that led to radicalization?

To be sure, there are plenty of Republicans who espouse similar separatist attitudes. But according to a 2021 study conducted by the Survey Center on American Life, "Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans are to report having ended a friendship over a political disagreement (20 percent vs. 10 percent)." That is consistent with the latest Generation Lab report. And it comports with a 2014 Pew survey showing that liberals are "more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or 'defriend' someone on a social network-as well as to end a personal friendship-because of politics."

So what are we to make of all of this?

Personally, I can understand not wanting to marry someone who supports a different political party—especially considering how the parties have sorted and are less ideologically diverse. Back in the 1990s (when things were less polarized), I dated liberal women. But I married a conservative. And now that we have kids, I'm especially glad I did. Raising children is hard enough when a couple shares similar values and a worldview. I can't imagine trying to do so with a house divided (the same would be true, of course, if my wife were some huge MAGA Trump supporter).

My main concern is the absurd notion that you can't be friends or roommates with people from opposing parties.

For the last dozen years, I have co-hosted a weekly podcast conversation called The DMZ with the liberal columnist Bill Scher. This experience (among others) has forced me to grapple with my own assumptions. It has also taught me that people on the other side of the aisle can be utterly decent and honest.

These friendships that span political affiliations are crucial for a nation's health and cohesion. And I wonder to what degree these friendships have prevented me from going off the deep end.

It seems to me that cutting oneself off from friends and family who have different views is a way of avoiding having to do introspection. It is also a step towards dehumanizing other Americans, since it's easy to otherize people you do not know and love. And dehumanization is a step toward violence. These things seem to go hand-in-hand.

However much I wish it weren't so, it does feel like burgeoning civil war territory—at least culturally and in our personal relationships.


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GregTx
Junior Participates
1  seeder  GregTx    one month ago

Interesting read, imo.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
2  Drinker of the Wry    one month ago

I think this poll confirms what we see in our country and on these pages.  Political differences are wider than our demographic differences by religious attendance or educational level, or racial differences.  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1  JohnRussell  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @2    one month ago

By far the worst thing to happen to American politics in the past 10 years is the normalization of Trump and Trumpism. In other words we see "polls" and "surveys" that portray a both sides are equally at fault sensibility. 

Defense of Trump and Republican anti-democracy efforts are described as "polarization", a pair of opposites that nevertheless represent legitimate positions. 

I dont think we have come close to hitting bottom yet. 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
2.1.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1    one month ago

I assume then that you disagreed with this statement, "Once again, Trump seems to be as much of a symptom of this trend as he is a cause or accelerant of it.'

You've got good reason to mistrust this survey as there was only one question about Trump, should he run again in 24.

By far the worst thing to happen to American politics in the past 10 years is the normalization of Trump and Trumpism. 

Thanks to cable news and all the free coverage they gave him when he first started his campaign and it has continued to this day. 

Defense of Trump and Republican anti-democracy efforts are described as "polarization", a pair of opposites that nevertheless represent legitimate positions. 

I haven't done that.  I didn't believe that Trump had a chance in 2016 until left the DC beltway and I visited my father in Western PA.  As I drove through the old mining and mill towns, I was amazed by the number of Trump signs.  When I talked with folks, many seemed more motivated by anger by their perception of elites and were their previous Dem Party was headed as any thoughts that Trump would be good.  My father termed that the "Fuck you vote".  

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
3  JBB    one month ago

Divided? Yes, a significant percentage of voters are superstitious flat earth fundies who do not believe in modern economics or science and who are socially bassackwards throwbacks to the McCarthy Period!

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
3.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JBB @3    one month ago

Just can't avoid the hyperbole can you. 

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
4  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one month ago

Greg,

Obviously, this was written from a conservative perspective and anecdotal stories. The truth is that hardcore members of each party are very disenfranchised from each other. It might have been bad before, but it is most definitely worse now. As an independent, whose hubby is a dem and whose friends lie on both sides of the political fence, my stories would run both ways. I just threw a wedding and for the first time, we had some old friends who are Trumpers, that didn't attend and I heard discussions among my dem friends who have children who married into conservative families that are not happy about it. Personally, I find this kind of behavior overall, very disconcerting. But to say that it goes more one way than another or that it isn't much worse since Trump is not being real. 

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
4.1  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    one month ago
Obviously, this was written from a conservative perspective and anecdotal stories.

It was written from a NBC News and Generation Lab SurveySurvey questions here.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
4.1.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @4.1    one month ago

I realize that, and I was just watching the breakout on "Meet the Press", but am talking about the overall perspective. Comments like: " First, this dogmatic attitude is coming from the left (which flies in the face of the old stereotype about liberals being open-minded free spirits)", is a very right perspective. The truth lies somewhere in between.

When I look at the survey provided this is how it shakes out:

512

Nowhere does it state what party these people belong to, just that there is a divide. That was my point.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
4.1.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1.1    one month ago
but am talking about the overall perspective.

The NBC News article is better written but comes to a similar conclusion.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
4.1.3  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @4.1.2    one month ago

The NBC article was about college students who tend to be more liberal. Yet, according to the article: 

Democratic respondents are much more opposed to rooming with someone who voted differently in 2020 (62% of them say they would “probably not” or “definitely not” room with such a person) than Republican respondents are (28%). In addition, a combined 53% of all respondents say they definitely or probably wouldn’t go on a date with someone who voted differently, compared to 47% who say they definitely or probably would.

pretty much says that while democratic respondents were more adamant about who they would room with, the combination of all respondents said they wouldn't probably date someone who they differed from politically. 

So let me tell you a little tale of my own. My hubby was telling his conservative friend that another friend of our's father got hit by a car and died. His response was, "I bet they reported it as death by covid". Tell me, do you think that this is an appropriate response? Btw, this lifelong friend, blew off my daughter's wedding, too.

To be fair, we had conservatives come to the wedding. My childhood bestie is a hardcore Trumper, and she came and had a wonderful time. My only point is that this is not just a liberal problem.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
4.1.4  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1.3    one month ago
His response was, "I bet they reported it as death by covid". Tell me, do you think that this is an appropriate response? Btw, this lifelong friend, blew off my daughter's wedding, too.

I think his response was outrageous and completely inappropriate.  It sounds like he had already stopped being a friend. 

My childhood bestie is a hardcore Trumper, and she came and had a wonderful time. My only point is that this is not just a liberal problem.

I'm glad that your daughter had a wonderful wedding and that you and your old friend could enjoy the event together.  I completely know that this isn't just a liberal problem.  

I've always enjoyed socializing with people that have different experiences and beliefs than my own.  I found it more interesting, I don't understand how this divide seems to be growing into one of hatred and disdain by too many.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
4.1.5  JohnRussell  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4.1.3    one month ago

I think there is a common thread among "conservatives" who object to political reconciliation -  they watch Fox News and similar right wing media. The damage that "conservative media" has done, largely based on misinformation and conspiracy theories,  over the past 10 or 15 years is almost beyond calculation. 

I have seen it in my own extended family many times. 

We are not in so much trouble because Republicans and Democrats have caused the problem equally. I'm sorry, but that is actually a ridiculous argument.  (Not saying you personally have made it).

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
4.1.6  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @4.1.5    one month ago
I think there is a common thread among "conservatives" who object to political reconciliation

Political reconciliation?

 
 
 
cjcold
Professor Quiet
4.1.7  cjcold  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @4.1.4    one month ago

I no longer speak to friends, family, acquaintances or strangers about religion or politics. The only folk I call fools and idiots these days are online. Folk I will likely never meet in person.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Freshman Principal
4.1.8  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  cjcold @4.1.7    one month ago
I no longer speak to friends, family, acquaintances or strangers about religion or politics.

Consistency has it's pluses.  I choose which friends and family members to talk about either with.

I call fools and idiots these days are online. Folk I will likely never meet in person.

There is safety in anonymity.

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
5  Hallux    one month ago

There have always been intense dividing lines beit from what religion to what ethnicity to what side of the tracks. Contemporary politics exaggerates the divides by channeling pet peeves into one issue voting blocks.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
6  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

Divide and conquer - an ominous adage. 

According to the bible, Mark 3:24 "If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand."  Lincoln adopted that during the civil war to say "A nation divided against itself cannot stand."   In my opinion, America is headed in that direction, and disaster is fast approaching. 

When I was in my teens, I went with my parents to Florida.  I recall being in a Miami department store and seeing two water fountains on the wall. one with a sign above saying "white" and the other with a sign above saying "coloured".   To me, being from Canada and never having seen anything like that before, I was shocked.  I would not be surprised seeing signs one day for "liberals" and "conservatives" in similar settings.  On that trip I had another edifying experience.  I got on a bus to ride back to the hotel, and as always liked to sit at the back of a bus, so that's where I went to sit.  The bus driver told me to come up front, but I said I liked it at the back, and he said he will not drive until I come up to the front, and the white passengers at the front started to yell at me so I had to comply.  Now that I have read of restaurants refusing to serve those of different political beliefs, I think America is returning to those divisive days that I experienced back then.  

IMO the internet and social media have exacerbated the division, and it's just getting worse and worse.  Instead of saying "God bless the United States of America", people should now start saying "God help the United States of America."

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
7  Buzz of the Orient    one month ago

Does anyone remember James Dean's line in Rebel Without a Cause?

YOU'RE TEARING ME APART!!!

62f9897ca310fd2bec9c05aa.jpeg

 
 

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