Elections Can’t Cure a Sick Political Culture Reply

By J.C. Tuccille, Reason

With November 2020 looming, Americans look forward to the end of a seemingly permanent election campaign and perhaps some reduction in the raging fever of national tensions that ail the country. Dream on. Even if we have a clear winner on election night, the selection of next year’s lucky White House resident seems bound to leave people more enraged than ever. Elections are no longer about turning out one officeholder and set of policies in favor of another with different schemes; they’re existential battles between political tribes who see their enemies as dangerous and evil.

Which is to say, awful officials are only symptoms. America’s divisive political culture is the disease and isolating the patients from one another may be the only treatment.

“Overwhelming majorities of both Biden and Trump supporters say that if the other candidate wins in November they would not only be very concerned about the country’s direction, but that this would lead to lasting harm to the nation,” Pew Research reported this month. “Fully 90% of Biden supporters say this about the prospect of Trump’s reelection, while 89% of Trump supporters say this about the prospect of Biden as president.”

Just over half (51 percent) of all voters told Pew that they “think about politics as a struggle between right and wrong.”

“Right and wrong” is pretty stark, but it doesn’t capture the full depths of antagonism between the country’s political tribes. Last year, Louisiana State University political scientist Nathan Kalmoe noted that 55 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats said the other party is “not just worse for politics—they are downright evil.” He added that 34 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats said the other party “lack the traits to be considered fully human—they behave like animals.”

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