The Great American Political Chasm

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The Great American Political Chasm

The world Americans inhabit in 2020, is light-years away from the one we knew as recently as 1990. 

Increasingly Americans believe that those in the other party are not only misguided but are also bad people whose views are so dangerously wrong-headed and crazy as to be all but incomprehensible.  American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks calls this “a new culture of contempt” in American politics and public life.

How did we get here?  Writing recently in The American Interest, DAVID BLANKENHORN teed-up a list of 15 factors and how they contributed.  Let’s consider each one.

  1. The end of the Cold War. The West’s victory in the Cold War means that, with the possible exception of jihadi terrorism, there is no longer a global enemy to keep us united in fighting a powerful and cohesive external threat.
  2. The rise of identity-group politics. On both the Left and the Right, the main conceptual frameworks have largely shifted in focus from unifying values to group identities. As Amy Chua puts it in her 2018 book Political Tribes: “The Left believes that right-wing tribalism—bigotry, racism—is tearing the country apart.  The Right believes that left-wing tribalism—identity politics, political correctness—is tearing the country apart.  They are both right.”  This is undeniably true, even though Chua’s usage of the terms “tribe” and “tribal” may be problematic.

  1. Growing religious diversity. As discussed in prior Trends issues, current trends in American religion reflect as well as contribute to political polarization. One trend is growing secularization and a rising number of religiously unaffiliated Americans.  There is also less public confidence in organized religion and a declining share of Americans who are Christians.  One consequence is an increasingly open challenge to Christianity’s once-dominant role in American public and political culture.  On the other hand, there is a clear trend toward the continuing and intensifying robustness of religious “faith and practice” in many parts of society...

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