The Great Crackup Continues

Is America in the process of breaking up? I don’t know. It might be. These poll data from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics are sobering, to say the least.

Start with this:

…28 percent of voters, including 37 percent who have guns in their homes, agree that “it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.” That view is held by one in three Republicans, including 45 percent of self-identified strong Republicans. Roughly one in three (35 percent) Independent voters and one in five Democrats agreed.

People don’t always mean what they say to pollsters. Sometimes they are sticking up for their party (e.g., the 40% or so who claim to think Joe Biden is doing a good job), sometimes they are trying to make a point. I think the latter is going on here. But still.

This one is stunning:

A majority of Americans agree that the government is “corrupt and rigged against everyday people like me,” including 73 percent of voters who describe themselves as a “strong Republican,” 71 percent who called themselves “very conservative” and 68 percent of rural voters. A bare majority (51 percent) of voters who call themselves “very liberal” also agreed. Overall, two-thirds of Republican and Independent voters agree that the government is “corrupt and rigged” against them, while Democrats are evenly split.

Sadly, it is hard to argue with the majority who condemn our government in these uncompromising terms. Certainly when we look at what elites have done to ordinary Americans–the price of gasoline and groceries, the ongoing destruction of our former system of cheap and reliable electricity, the abandonment of our Southern border–“corrupt and rigged against ordinary people” seems like a fair description.

This one is striking too:

About three-quarters (73 percent) of voters who identify themselves as Republican agree that “Democrats are generally bullies who want to impose their political beliefs on those who disagree.” An almost identical percentage of Democrats (74 percent) express that view of Republicans. A similarly lopsided majority of each party holds that members of the other are “generally untruthful and are pushing disinformation.”

The lack of mutual trust and respect between left and right is saddening. Of course, it is true of any kind of political process that it involves “imposing…political beliefs on those who disagree.” I am reminded of that every time I pay taxes.

But the more expansive government is, the more people are likely to feel that it is imposing someone else’s beliefs on them. The less government, the more opportunity for people to go their own way. Then, too, this question wasn’t limited to imposing beliefs through government action. In today’s world, conservatives rightly think that liberal beliefs are being imposed on them by universities, social media platforms, corporations and other institutions, as well as by government.

I’ve been reading about a dangerous polarization in American political life for as long as I can remember. But one gets the sense that today, it is actually happening. It isn’t just that people disagree about important matters: the whole point of the political process is to resolve important disagreements. The difference today is that on both sides of the political divide, there is little sense of shared values, shared community and a common commitment to America and its future. While I don’t think Americans will be shooting at each other in the streets any time soon, it does seem that increasing numbers are open to the idea that red and blue America should peacefully go their separate ways.

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