The current presidential campaign exposes extreme partisanship as our political normality. Reminiscent of the classic “boiling frog” metaphor, what once seemed deplorable has gradually (and gravely) become our standard practice. As revealed by the Pew Research Center (“Political Polarization in the American Public: How Increasing Ideological Uniformity and Partisan Antipathy Affect Politics, Compromise and Everyday Life”), our civic temperature is methodically rising, perhaps beyond the boiling point, and the consequences are both serious and several. The study states:
“The overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10% to 21%. [As a result], the center has gotten smaller: 39% of Americans currently take a roughly equal number of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49% in surveys conducted in 1994 and 2004.”
In addition to the steady and significant growth in gross ideological polarization, the research also reveals a growing and alarming disdain for those with opposing political views. The findings assert:
“Partisan animosity has increased substantially… In each party, the share with a highly negative view of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994. Most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party’s policies ‘are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being’.”
As indicated by research (and frequently revealed in practice), it appears that far too many citizens have learned to accept such political polarization – and the personal loathing that accompanies it – as our destructive domestic custom. Our most accepted tactics to counter such dysfunction – known as “bipartisanship” and “non-partisanship” – have also proven to be mostly ineffective, thus leaving those in the center (both literally and politically) both distant and disengaged. The temperature of our hostile conflict continues to increase, and thus it increasingly appears that bipartisanship and non-partisanship have proven to be unsuccessful community coolants.