The secret reason for America’s white-hot political rhetoric
Summary: There is a secret to US politics that explains the white-hot rhetoric that now dominates it. If many Americans saw this, the political system would change. Hopefully for the better.
There are three hundred thousand entries on Google for “political polarization”, mostly whining about its awfulness and pining for the bipartisanship of the days of yore. Worry no more! The rhetoric in US politics has become white hot because it is not polarized. The rhetoric is distracting music, necessary to maintain party cohesion. The rank and file must believe the parties differ in important ways. ”You are evil” replaces “Your policies are bad”.
Our elites agree on an unusually large number of important areas of public policy. The political parties must conceal this from us, so they heat up the rhetoric. Politics becomes a blood sport to entertain a passive and apathetic public. Treason, fascist, and Nazi become commonplace.
The Republicans and Democrats disagree about social issues; this is the core of our so-called “political polarization”. The 1% care about money and power. They don’t care about mating habits of the proles, or most social issues. The endless war, domestic surveillance, maintaining our flat tax system (here and here), dominance of the banks, our State Capitalist economy — you know the list.
Hillary and other Democrats supported Bush’s wars. The GOP supported Obama’s wars. The Democrats support Trump’s wars. The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 with a bipartisan majority, just like the past and future DNAA’s. Congress renewed the Patriot Act with a bipartisan majority in 2011 and its renewal, the USA Freedom Act, in 2015.
That is the true bipartisanship.
Our leaders organize us to be ineffectual. We get tribal loyalties (dirty hippy commies vs. puritanical ignorant fascists) and mock battles to fight. It prevents the discovery of common causes, mutual allegiances, and the need for fundamental reform.
See this excerpt from “American politics go tribal” by Tom Jacobs in the Pacific Standard — “A political scientist explains the disconnect between our moderate policy views and our intense hatred for the other side.”
“Political scientist Lilliana Mason’s analysis is more subtle, and more disturbing. Her research suggests that, in terms of our attitudes towards issues, we are no more polarized than we were decades ago. But our emotions, and the behaviors they drive, have largely uncoupled from our actual analysis of the issues. Essentially, the Stony Brook University scholar argues, our identities have become increasingly intertwined with our political affiliation. As a result, we feel ever more certain that our party is right and the other is wrong—even in cases where their positions aren’t far apart.
“Our attitude towards the opposing party has become, basically, tribal: We detest them simply because they’re the other side.
“‘The American public can hold remarkably moderate and constant issue positions, while nonetheless becoming progressively more biased, active and angry when it comes to politics,’ she argues. ‘Even as we agree on most issues, we are becoming increasingly uncivil in our approach to politics.’”
America is well-governed. But not in our interests.
How to choose a political party
Today we get to choose a political party like cattle at the Chicago stockyards get to choose a chute. The cattle (being smarter than us) don’t bother with party identification. Cattle don’t cheer the “left-side” pen, admire the virtue of its prisoners, the beauty of its fence, the wisdom of their keepers, or its free food. Those in the “right-side” pen don’t wear logos or trumpet their superior intelligence over those in the other pen.
As policy differences narrow between the parties, we get more noise. Bush Jr. was a fascist, probably a Nazi. Obama is an anarchist socialist Muslim pretending to be an American. Trump is evil incarnate.
The differences that remain — such as gay marriage, abortion rights, gun rights, education policy — are important but insignificant compared to the profound changes in our political regime under way for several decades. Now the pace accelerates. A unified ruling class, led by a resurgent 1%, with an apathetic and passive citizenry — who can say what changes might be made to America in the next decade?
Eventually we’ll come to a Rubicon, a clear line whose crossing future historians will consider the birth of a New America. The Rubicon might not be obvious as we cross it.
It need not be like this. Both parties belong to us. Both can be retaken. America needs a choice, not an echo (to borrow Phyllis Schlafy’s memorable phrase).