Partisan hatred as national crisis

David French of National Review Online laments the current state of partisan division.

[T]he New York Times’ Thomas Edsall published an important essay highlighting a new study that analyzed the extent of “lethal mass partisanship.” As Edsall observes, the paper contained some disturbing statistics. Among them, “42 percent of the people in each party view the opposition as ‘downright evil.’” A stunning 20 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans believe “we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died.” And if the opposing party wins the 2020 election, 18 percent of Democrats and 13 percent of Republicans “feel violence would be justified.”

We hear quite a bit about “dehumanizing rhetoric” in American public life. Well, it appears that tens of millions of Americans now have dehumanizing beliefs. “One out of five Republicans and Democrats agree with the statement that their political adversaries ‘lack the traits to be considered fully human — they behave like animals.’” …

… In a time of crisis, American citizens often look for guidance and take their cues from the subset of American citizens who are most engaged and informed. Yet study after study is now showing that this cohort of Americans is driving the engine of American division. As University of Pennsylvania professor Yphtach Lelkes told Edsall, “Ironically, reflective citizens, who are sometimes seen as ideal citizens, might be the subset of strong partisan identifiers most likely to fall in line with the party.” Consequently, “The democratic dilemma may not be whether low information citizens can learn what they need to know, but whether high information citizens can set aside their partisan predispositions.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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