Breaking News: Republicans And Democrats Really Hate Each Other
To claim that America is politically polarized nearly five months into Trump’s Presidency would be an understatement. The true divide between Republicans and Democrats is far beyond mere polarization and has reached potentially dangerous levels. Gone are the days where the parties alternate majority control every few years based on the whims of voters in a relatively benign and boring manner. The partisan divide has become vitriolic, but isn’t based on conviction and support of one’s party, but rather sheer disdain for the other.
In June of last year, Pew Research released extensive polling of both Republican and Democratic voters concerning their views of one another and the results were anything but surprising. Roughly half of Republicans and Democrats alike report feelings of fear, anger, and frustration towards the other party. The numbers are even higher among Democrats and Republicans that Pew classifies as voters with “high political engagement.” It only goes downhill from here.
Closed-minded, immoral, and lazy are the top three descriptors of Democrats by Republicans. Closed-minded, dishonest, and immoral are the most popular views of Republicans on behalf of Democrats.
Half of Republicans and just under half of Democrats report discussing politics with one another as “stressful and frustrating” and over 60% report that attempted discussions reveal even fewer commonalities than initially assumed. There is incessant instruction from “professionals” in the media regarding the need for Republicans and Democrats to reach out, and do a better job attempting to understand one another. While undoubtedly true, it is difficult convincing people to risk a stress related heart attack for the sake of discussing guns, abortion, and healthcare with their neighbors.
However, here are where the numbers create more questions than answers. Over 50% of Republicans and Democrats claim the other parties policies are bad for the country, yet only 19% of Republican leaning voters and 18% of Democratic leaning voters claim to have “a lot in common” with their own party. Pew released a follow-up report in September asking voters “in their own words” to explain their support of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The most common response given by voters supporting Trump was simply “he is not Clinton.” The most common response given by voters supporting Clinton was simply “she is not Trump.” The 2016 Presidential Election was yet again a referendum on who American voters hated less-hardly an ideal situation.
Is this really the best American can do? Especially considering that less than 20% of both Republicans and Democrats claim significant alignment with the policies promoted by the party they support? Both Trump and Clinton were so disliked that only 11% of Republicans said they would be excited if Trump won, and only 12% of Democrats if Clinton won. However, over 60% said they would be “relieved” if their candidate of choice won.
Despite bipartisan jingoistic chest thumping, ostentatious claims of supremacy, and consistent pronouncements of American exceptionalism, the feeling of “relief” is apparently the best that can be hoped for in modern presidential politics.
None of this makes sense. How can over 60% of political discussions between Republicans and Democrats reveal even deeper divisions than initially assumed given that less than 20% of Republicans and Democrats alike even share substantial commonalities with the party they support?
The only plausible explanation is that voters possess deep seeded tribal alignment with a party they don’t much care for to begin with, while the hatred of the other party solidifies the bond. The belief that everything is either Republican-Democrat, conservative-liberal, right-left, or good-bad is crushing the system. There must be common ground buried under the hatred and outrage.
There are very few issues in the world that possess no middle ground. Americans are not only willing, but eager to ignore this in defense of their shitty party only because it is apparently slightly less shitty than the alternative. The clearest example of this behavior is the commonplace response to criticism of one’s choice candidate or party with “what about (insert opposing candidate’s name/political party here).” Countering questions or criticisms by immediately shifting to how much worse the other may be is reflected clearly in Pew’s Research.
Such logic is understandable, and arguably even rational when casting a ballot with only two choices. Applying the same logic outside of an election only reinforces the partisan divide while lessening the likelihood of substantive change or progress. The entry of a viable third party (at minimum) to the political system is ideal, albeit unlikely anytime soon.
After voting for a candidate simply because they are less horrible than the alternative, voting them out come re-election time must be seriously considered should they fail the country as so many of our career politicians consistently do. This is obviously antithetical to the logical decision regarding the “lesser of two evils” theory as it would almost certainly require voting for the opposing party. Unfortunately, there is virtually no other way to prove to politicians that simply appearing aside an (R) or (D) on the ballot is no longer enough. Far too many Democrats and Republicans alike have become far too comfortable with all but certain electoral victories time and time again simply due to party affiliation despite their ineptitude.