‘Gut-Level Hatred’ Is Consuming Our Political Life

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from The New York Times,

Divisions between Democrats and Republicans have expanded far beyond the traditional fault lines based on race, education, gender, the urban-rural divide and economic ideology.

Polarization now encompasses sharp disagreements over the significance of patriotism and nationalism, as well as a fundamental split between those seeking to restore perceived past glories and those who embrace the future.

Marc Hetherington, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, described the situation this way in an email to me:

Because political beliefs now reflect deeply held worldviews about how the world ought to be — challenging traditional ways of doing things on the one hand and putting a brake on that change on the other — partisans look across the aisle at each other and absolutely do not understand how their opponents can possibly understand the world as they do.

We have these levels of polarization today, Hetherington continued,

because of the gains nondominant groups have made over the last 60 years. The Democrats no longer apologize for challenging traditional hierarchies and established pathways. They revel in it. Republicans see a world changing around them uncomfortably fast, and they want it to slow down, maybe even take a step backward. But if you are a person of color, a woman who values gender equality or an L.G.B.T. person, would you want to go back to 1963? I doubt it. It’s just something we are going to have to live with until a new set of issues rises to replace this set.

Democrats are determined not only to block any drive to restore the America of 1963 — one year before passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — but also to press the liberal agenda forward.

Toward the end of the 20th century, Republicans moved rightward at a faster pace than Democrats moved leftward. In recent decades, however, Democrats have accelerated their shift toward more liberal positions, and Republican movement to the right has slowed, in part because the party had reached the outer boundaries of conservatism.

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