Parallel Worlds

What is strange about our current political climate is not, in my opinion, polarization per se. It is not surprising that people with different interests and philosophies have different policy preferences and priorities. What is remarkable is that increasingly, liberals and conservatives don’t even seem to be living on the same planet. Their political concerns and agendas are largely ships that pass in the night.

Thus, check out the results of this survey, in which Republicans and Democrats were asked how concerned they are about various issues and topics. Some of the questions were asked of members of both parties, while others were unique to one party or the other. These were the Democrats’ top concerns among the questions that were unique to them:

These responses are, I think, mostly delusional. Eighty-two percent of Democrats are “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about “Donald Trump’s supporters”? What, all 74 million of them? And 79 percent are extremely or very concerned about “white nationalism.” What, exactly, is white nationalism? There was a black nationalism movement some years ago that advocated a separate polity for blacks. There is no such movement today advocating a separate polity for whites. If you ever run across a white nationalist, let me know. I would like to meet one someday.

And on and on. “Systemic racism,” which translates as “nonexistent racism.” “Domestic terrorism,” by which I don’t think they mean Antifa. “Voter suppression.” What voter suppression? This is sheer fantasy. And 39 percent are extremely or very concerned about “capitalism.”

Note how hypothetical most of these supposedly urgent issues are. How many Democrats who expressed grave concerns have any experience of white nationalism, racism, domestic terrorism, voter suppression, etc.? Hardly any. Respondents are basically parroting Democratic Party talking points that are far removed from pretty much everyone’s reality.

These are Republicans’ responses to questions that were asked only of them. There aren’t any surprises here. I would simply point out that they reflect, in my view, real-world issues. White nationalism may be a phantom, but high taxes are a reality:

Finally, here are the top concerns as expressed by Democrats and Republicans, including both the joint questions the unique ones:

It is nice to see that Democrats are concerned about the economic damage from COVID shutdowns. That strikes me as their one point of contact with reality that emerges in this survey.

I wonder, increasingly, whether it is viable for America’s conservatives and liberals to continue sharing a country. It is one thing to disagree, quite another to inhabit different worlds altogether. In my opinion, the Democrats’ world is a fantasy construct. They might say the same about mine, although it seems hard to argue that illegal immigration, high taxes, etc. do not exist. But that reinforces my point. Do we, at this juncture, have not just enough shared experience, but even enough shared epistemology, to jointly govern a country?