I was reading the other day about what might be called “antipathy gaps,” as measured by a series of sociological surveys, which revealed that there is a greater and stronger divide in terms of antipathy between Republicans and Democrats than there is between races… for the first time in decades, and probably ever, although there aren’t any studies that go back that far.
As someone who was active in politics for roughly twenty years, I can certainly attest to the growth of the divide between parties. When I began my career as a political staffer on the national level, there were numerous friendships across party lines, and there were even a great number of issues on which both parties worked and reached agreement. That began to change in the 1970s, and by the early 1980s existing friendships were often fraying, and very few cross-party friendships were formed between newcomers to the U.S. House and Senate. This process appears to have continued, and I suspect any politicians who are friends with their peers in the other party appear to be keeping any such friendships under wraps – assuming more than a handful of such friendships even exist.
I’ve noticed the same among politically active acquaintances, and it’s very clear that almost any discussion of political issues almost invariably degenerates into party-line positions among the vast majority of them. So far, at least, we’ve remained on good terms with friends who have other political leanings, if at the cost of never discussing certain issues with them in any depth. This “social” polarization is also reflected in the letters to the editor in the local and regional newspapers, but I suspect part of that reflects an editorial predisposition to fan the flames in order to generate controversy and, thus, sales.
As a nation, we’re faced with incredibly complex issues, all of which have arisen from the conflict of multiple factors, and none of which can be resolved by the simplistic rhetoric and “solutions” of either party’s current political stance on the “hot-button” issues because both parties have developed positions reflecting the views of their activists, and those views are seen as extreme, not only by the opposing party, but also by a significant number of Americans. Neither set of so-called solutions will work, either, because they ignore social and economic realities in favor of comforting “common sense” bromides that ignore unpleasant and inconvenient facts.
Yet, increasingly, the so-called dialogue has come to consist of both sides shouting past each other, and with the shouting getting louder every year, those seeking common ground have less say and less input… and the only change I’m seeing is a hardening of position on both sides.
It’s past time both sides looked at the facts – ALL the facts, and not just those that support each side’s position, but then, that’s not likely to happen because there’s far too much money for the media in fomenting conflict and far too much profit for the gun-makers and military industrial complex in arming everyone for the coming disaster… and the financial community doesn’t care so long as they can keep increasing their share of the national wealth.