Racial Polarization of Partisans

Racial polarization in the general population has remained at the same level for decades. But it has increased in the two-party system, at the very time fewer Americans are registering in either party. So, the very people least polarized are those who have left the polarized parties. This means there is an ever greater concentration of polarization among the most loyal partisans, Republicans and Democrats, and hence the further polarization of the parties.

Even non-racial issues (e.g., same sex marriage) have become racially polarized within the two-party system, specifically in reaction to Obama’s presidency. Most Americans agree about most issues. What has changed in recent history is that the majority no longer identifies with either main party and so the two-party system doesn’t represent them. The ideological fight between Republicans and Democrats has nothing to do with the larger population. As such, polarization of the minority goes hand in hand with disenfranchisement of the majority.

Yet, as the two main parties have greater power and get more media attention, it gives the impression of polarization increasing in American society. The polarized partisans are getting more free publicity from the mainstream media than they did in the past. There is no political spectacle to push and no social drama to sell advertising in the news media reporting on the boring consensus of the majority, even if we ignore the fact that the media corporations are themselves major funding sources for the very political parties they have helped to polarize.

The one thing the media is even less likely to report on is how their reporting influences public perception and supports political spin, not to mention how it locks in the dominant two-party paradigm. The polarization becomes entrenched and self-perpetuating, until the majority of Americans realize how disconnected the entire system is from their lives and values. It would require a large outside force such as nation-wide social unrest to shake loose the polarization that rules the mainstream mind.

I’ve often pointed out the political elite are disconnected from the public. That is still true. But it goes far beyond merely the supposed representatives not necessarily representing even the people who vote for them, especially Democratic politicians who falsely assume their constituents are more conservative than they actually are—both of the main parties are ideologically to the right of the majority. More interesting, the mainstream partisans have also become disconnected from the rest of the population.

The problematic and even dangerous aspect of this is how it creates detachment and dissociation. It’s a divide in the mind, in experience and perception. This disconnection, through the power of party politics and corporate media, is forced upon social reality.

* * *

It All Comes Down to Race
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by Michael Tesler

3 thoughts on “Racial Polarization of Partisans

    • As far as I know, that is only looking at unaffiliated voters. It’s not looking at all citizens with voting rights, i.e., prospective voters.

      The number of unaffiliated voters and non-voters is the majority. But even just taking the number of unaffiliated voters, they are larger than the affiliated voters of either party. The two-party system, as I pointed out in this post, no longer represents most Americans.

      It’s not just that most Americans aren’t identifying with the parties, for in increasing numbers they aren’t even voting. This already growing sense of voter demoralization has worsened with this campaign season.



    • It is an important and interesting topic. I’m glad you challenged me on it. Challenges are always welcome, as long as they’re sincere and worthy.

      I must admit it’s a lot more complicated than it might first appear. It depends on what kind of voter participation we’re talking about.

      It has been declining in primaries, local elections, and midterm elections—although this past year has seen above normal participation. As for presidential elections, it goes up and down with a high point earlier last century.

      It also depends on if you’re talking voter turn out of all eligible voters or all registered voters, and that doesn’t even bring up the issue of those who are disenfranchised along with voter suppression (in the country overall, over 2% of the population is disenfranchised; and in 6 states, over 4% of the population is disenfranchised with some states having a third of black men disenfranchised—enough to swing elections when factoring in voter suppression along with gerrymandering and other forms of manipulation). Then there are issues of changing voter participation among various demographics and populations, with some clearly dropping for whatever reason.

      A better post than this could discuss all the details and complexities. There is a fair argument to be made in opposition to my conclusion. Voter participation, for example, did spike in 2008. Many new voters were motivated to participate, but it’s not clear that will increase future elections. Demoralization seems to be getting worse, even though Obama temporarily inspired some Americans.

      If I were to write such a better post, I would include the issue that many other countries have seen declining voter participation. I’d also point out that some have seen the opposite. It would be nice to know why some populations are losing faith in democracy while others still have hope. Most important, what is the connection to high voter participation rates and well functioning social democracies, such as the Nordic countries? What is causing the declining voter participation rate in countries like the US, at the very same time that many problems are worsening?

      Also, are we actually seeing a permanent long-term trend? Is it going to continue going down? Or as we shift into a new kind of society, will many worsening factors begin to reverse? I offer that last thought with the Strauss and Howe generational theory, which asserts we are in the middle of an unraveling and on the cusp of major change.

      Even if there was a higher turnout, it’s not clear how they’d vote. It’s still the same two-party system and corporate media. The American population is highly manipulated, misinformed, and propagandized (via public perception management, astroturf, front organizations, think tanks, and the propaganda model of media). Unless more Americans became better educated which would require a better education system and developed what some call intellectual self-defense, more voters wouldn’t make the system any more democratic.

      The bigger problem is that our society is a banana republic. The low voter participation rate is a common result, not cause, of banana republics. That’s my cynical view of things.

      I’ll leave you with some links to explore. You can decide for yourself what to make of it all.








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