Pure Partisanship

The degree of partisanship in the country is increasing. That’s what Pew Research has found:

Over the past six years, the share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying the government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, has risen 17 percentage points (from 54% to 71%), while the views of Republicans and Republican leaners have barely changed (25% then, 24% today). However, Republicans’ opinions on this issue had shifted substantially between 2007 and 2011, with the share favoring more aid to the needy falling 20 points (from 45% to 25%).

The result: While there has been a consistent party gap since 1994 on government aid to the poor, the divisions have never been this large. In 2011, about twice as many Democrats as Republicans said the government should do more for the needy (54% vs. 25%). Today, nearly three times as many Democrats as Republicans say this (71% vs. 24%).

Basically, Republicans are becoming more Republican and Democrats more Democratic. The parties continue to change from the “catch all” parties they’ve always been to programmatic parties.

In terms of affiliation the two political parties are just about the same with 29% Republicans and 30% Democrats. 40% of Americans consider themselves neither Republicans nor Democrats.

I don’t believe this divergence can continue indefinitely. Either one party, the other, or both must stop their move away from the other party, there needs to be a new assertion of federalism, or fracture or violence are inevitable.

7 comments… add one
  • Ben Wolf

    We’ve been in the uninterrupted Age of Reagan for thirty-six years, a political economy adopted by both parties. Wanting to help the poor is no more a condition of being a Democrat than owning a gun is a condition of voting Republican.

    The political philosophy of Reaganism, “no society, only individuals” has been rejected by a large majority of Americans. That says nothing about political partisanship. It does say something about the erosion of liberalism and the destructive, permanent state of revolution that had made conservatism self-destructive and totally incoherent.

  • Andy

    When it comes to the poor, both parties are paternalistic and self-serving – Democrats want government redistribution programs and Republicans want all their usual policy preferences, just tailored to what they think the poor need. Neither have been particularly effective.

  • Andy

    Partisanship is very bad and seems to be growing worse. I’m tuning out more and more from the outrage du jour.

    More worrying is the decline in civic engagement. So many are willing to yell and scream on social media and the more activist ones, perhaps, will send some money to a lobby or political group. So many seem to have lost interest in what is going on at the state and local level.

  • steve

    I don’t know about the big cities, but where we live we still have a fair amount of civic engagement, though it is clearly less than int he past. We have managed to keep our soup kitchen going and the shelter where the wife and I have cooked for over the years has not been having trouble finding volunteers.

    That said, I do see a change in how we work together. There used to be more working together among our churches to support efforts like soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Now, the “liberal” and the “conservative” churches do these things separately.


  • Ben Wolf

    Federalism will not lead to a peaceful outcome. Conservatism is by definition a reactionary movement to check or slow the progress of radicalism. It must have an enemy to work against. You can give swathes of the country over to conservative orthodoxy to rule as they wish and they’ll still have to come for everybody else.

  • Guarneri

    Paranoia is an instinct or thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion and irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning perceived threats….

    They have pills for it, too, Ben…….

  • mike shupp

    Hmmm … I don’t think “fracture or violence” is inevitable, and I wouldn’t count on some “new assertion of federalism.” But I do think Game’s Over! for a certain style of American government.

    Thing is, as some people have noticed, Donald Trump REALLY doesn’t like much of what Barak Obama built or left behind, and a lot of what he and his associates are doing — with full support from Republicans in Congress and out there in the states — is aimed at undoing just about everything tainted by association with Democrats. Rex Tillerson’s having fun taking apart the State Department, Betsy DeVos doesn’t like conventional public schools, nobody likes teachers unions, Scott Pruitt is eliminating as much of the EPA as he can, NASA’s not going to putting up satellites to monitor earth climate.

    Et cetera. Great fun for conservatives all round, like double doses of cocaine and Viagra, and all without consequence as long as Republicans stay in power. But is that going to be forever? Will there never be another Democratic president, or another period in which Democrats have control of one or both branches of Congress? Might there even be a day in which Democrats get appointed again to federal judgeships? In four years perhaps or forty or four hundred?

    Hyperbole, right? Funny funny funny! But as I said, I think a certain type of governing game is over. Democrats aren’t going to return to power in Washington with a cheerful “Let’s all be friends now and move along together” attitude. Trump’s shown liberals how to govern without mercy and they aren’t going to forget it. They’ll rebuild what they can of the federal bureaucracy while paying as little attention to conservative sensitivities as they can. There’ll be no nonsense about even-handed staffing of civil service, no silly attempts at bipartisan staffing of congressional committees, no grand national infrastructure reconstruction that individual state governors will be able to opt out of it. The federal hand may be labeled “liberal” after Trump is gone, but it’s going to fall fast and hard on ideological dissidents. As Donald Trump has taught us.

    And it will happen. Global Warming is going to be a concern by century’s end, no matter what Republicans screech. China’s on a path to overtake the US as the world’s paramount military and economic power, maybe as soon as the half century mark. India may be a challenger by 2075 or so. And by the year 2100, the number of people in Africa will have risen to about five billion — just about all of them Black and very determined not to overlorded by people who don’t like Blacks. My suspicion is there’s going to be some economic and social tweaking of American society.

    And I can’t imagine Republicans going along with any of this without some huge resistance. Maybe not full bore Civil War, but I certainly expect elections to become very nasty and very dishonest, and I expect both sides will resort to civil service purges and other fun and games.

    And I suspect by the end of the century, we’ll all be damned sick of our new governing game but we wont be able to see a way out, and the rest of the world is going to be damned sick of us as well.

    Isn’t it nice to have something to look forward to?

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