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
by Sasha Issenberg

The Great Trump Reshuffle
Thomas B. Edsall

A newly released poll shows the populist power of Donald Trump
by Michael Tesler

Donald Sterling shows the separate realities of Democrats and Republicans about race
by Michael Tesler

American Democracy?

I had someone ask me why they should care about politics. It was just a few days ago. They were responding to my posting a bunch of political stuff on facebook. They didn’t see how politics helped one live one’s life.

I gave a rational response. Everything is political. One should care about politics because one cares about anything at all. Whether or not one is involved in politics, politics is involved in every aspect of one’s life. The personal is political. But rationality doesn’t by itself offer anything compelling, much less inspiring.

I’m not a person who is obsessively involved with politics. I often don’t even feel sure that voting matters. I see how democracy functions to a limited extent on the local level, depending on the local politics, but it is for damn sure hard to tell if democracy is functioning even slightly on the national level. If it is, it’s barely hanging by a thread.

This has become increasingly apparent as I’ve grown older.

The first election I cared about was in 2000. And what happened? It was stolen. There was never a full recount done and the supreme court chose our president. American democracy became the joke of the world. If this scenario had happened in a third world country, it would’ve been an international scandal necessitating outside intervention. Gore did nothing in response, no demand for a full recount, no righteous defense of democracy, nothing. The 2006 election also was problematic.

More recently, there was disinformation campaign that destroyed ACORN. That was an organization that helped average and below average Americans, especially in terms of voting. Republicans attacked them and Democrats caved. It was one of the most morally depraved acts in recent years. Now, Republicans have stepped up their campaign against democracy by pushing voter suppression.

Citizens United was maybe the tipping point toward a new era of corporatism. Polls show that the average American is far to the left of the Democrats and yet the majority position is rarely heard in the mainstream media or from either of the two main parties. Even a strong majority of voters can’t compete against the corrupting power of big money.

I’m not sure which is worse: Republicans attacking democracy or Democrats refusing to defend it. I’ve come to the conclusion that, for the moment, voting against the attacks on democracy is strategically more important. If democracy is finally and completely corrupted and disempowerd in national politics, then any other attempts at defense are meaningless.

The last thing I want to see is Republicans being rewarded with votes for attacking democracy. It’s sad that this attack has happened at all. It’s even more sad that the mainstream media and the Democratic Party has given it so little attention. There is no more important issue in a democratic system than ensuring democracy functions. The only unforgivable sin in a democracy is to undermine democracy itself.

I don’t care about either candidate in this election or either main party in general. All I care about is saving what remnants of democracy that have managed to survive. However, if Romney wins this election, I’m going to give up on American democracy. I’ll join some critical leftwingers in their assessment that the entire political system has become dysfunctional beyond saving.

There apparently is a very large number of Americans who either don’t understand democracy or don’t care about democracy… or else maybe it is just cynicism and apathy. Democracy can’t defeat a highly organized and well funded campaign of propaganda and disenfranchisement. I’d like to believe that democracy has a fighting chance, but it is hard to keep the faith.

So, what is the point? When rationality fails me, my cynical response is to say, “Wake me up when the revolution begins.”

Political Charts: Ideology & Psychology

http://knowinghumans.net/2009/01/extra-nolan-chart-dimensions.html

The problem I see with political identifications is conflation of factors. 

A major confusion is that few people seem interested in the connection between political views and personality traits.  There has been a lot of psychological research.  There are three models that have been used for political research: MBTI, FFM, and Hartmann’s Boundary Types.  All of those models have been correlated to varying degrees.

When I read many political descriptions, I immediately notice that personality traits and types are being described.  Let me use some examples.

MBTI Intuition is correlated with Openness to Experience and Hartmann’s Thin Boundary Type.  This psychological characteristic correlates to many liberal tendencies: more open and less fearful of the new experience, more hopeful/optimistic about future possibilities, more willingness to experiment, more accepting of those who are different.  Et Cetera.

Boundary types are particularly helpful.  Thick Boundary types prefer clear rules and principles, strong hierarchies and established lines of authority.  Thick boundary types separate imagination from reality, subjectivity from objectivity.  Thick Boundary types want to keep things the same, want to maintain the familiar and known.

The main issue is separating out the psychological elements from the ideological elements… if it is possible.  I wonder what would be left of a political chart if the psychological elements were entirely removed.

http://www.zianet.com/ehusman/weblog/2006/06/nolan-chart-inadequacy.html

Nice analysis.  I’m mostly interested, at the moment, in how the US two party system evolved.  There is one point I would clarify.  You said:

“In America, liberals were cut from their decentralized, agrarian roots and put in search of a new philosophy.”

I wouldn’t agree that the liberals were cut off.  It was more that politics and agriculture were becoming increasingly influenced by industrialization.  The main influence of industrialization was centralization of power and wealth.  It became possible for farmers to work larger fields and so the small family farmer became a less successful model.  In early US, farmers were the common working man, but this changed with industrialization.  The new common working man was the factory worker, and this is the demographic the liberals became identified with in the decades after the Civil War.

Many liberals still wanted power that was decentralized from an elite and instead controlled democratically.  However, centralization of power had gone so far that the only way to counter it was with a different centralization of power.  Worker Unions formed and they fought for laws to legislate the abuse of over-centralized capitalist power.  Decentralization is simply impossible in an industrialized world without dismantling industrialization.  Either power gets centralized in a capitalist elite or a political elite.  From the view of the common working man, the Federal government is a safer bet than the Robber Barons.  At least, Federal government offers the hope for democracy.

During and after WWI, the conservatives retold the narrative of the working class.  Using war patriotism, they were able to undermine the worker’s unions and align worker’s with capitalist interests (redefined as America’s interests).  A major force in causing this redefintion was the KKK and the film The Birth of a Nation.  The KKK encapsulated the new conservative ideology: patriotic nationalism, traditional family values, white culture, anti-immigrant sentiments, and fundamentalist Christianity.  They appealed to the anger and values of many working class people, but the KKK membership was mostly middle and upper class citizens.  The KKK was a gentlemen’s club filled with politicians, judges, police chiefs, and business owners. 

This is how the pro-capitalist conservatives captured the working man vote.  They attacked the blacks and the immigrants.  The conservatives told the working class that there is pride in being a good white person working hard for your family and your country.  This is your country.  You are the true Americans, not the blacks, Chinese, or Mexicans, not the “hyphenated Americans”.