By Damon Linker, The Week
We live in an age of negative partisanship, when political candidates and parties frequently mobilize voters by highlighting the awfulness of the other candidate or party rather than articulating a positive vision.
The approach is popular these days because the consensus that long galvanized many established parties and electoral coalitions has begun to break down over the past decade without the emergence of a new, unifying vision. In its absence, parties and politicians direct their attention outward, toward the threat posed by opponents, which can serve to motivate support and turnout at the polls. I don’t love Party X, but at least they’re not Party Y. That’s negative partisanship in action, and it can be incredibly effective as an electoral strategy.
But how long can it remain so? We have reason to suspect its efficacy may soon begin to wane. That’s because democratic politics is supposed to reflect popular consensus in favor of a positive vision for the future — and not Party Y isn’t a positive vision for the future. Demonizing the opposition may work for one or two election cycles. But beyond that, voters are likely to lose their patience and begin demanding something to vote for rather than merely against, whatever the alternative dares to propose.
Consider the situation in France.