• The destructive behavior of the White House’s current occupant has provoked a number of thoughtful pieces on the corrosive effects of the widening gap that exists between political affiliations in the United States. Some examples:
Bret Stephens, Donald Trump and the Damage Done: “But the catastrophe of Trump’s presidency doesn’t mainly lie in the visible damage it has caused. It’s in the invisible damage. Trump was a corrosive. What he mainly corroded was social trust — the most important element in any successful society…it’s hard to think of any person in my lifetime who so perfectly epitomizes the politics of distrust, or one who so aggressively promotes it. Trump has taught his opponents not to believe a word he says, his followers not to believe a word anyone else says, and much of the rest of the country to believe nobody and nothing at all.
He has detonated a bomb under the epistemological foundations of a civilization that is increasingly unable to distinguish between facts and falsehoods, evidence and fantasy. He has instructed tens of millions of people to accept the commandment, That which you can get away with, is true.”
Thomas Edsall quotes Stephen Pinker in his America, We Have a Problem column: “Humans can believe things for two reasons: because they have grounds for thinking they’re true, or to affirm a myth that unites and emboldens the tribe,” Pinker wrote. “Any fair-weather friend can say that rocks fall down, but only a blood brother would be willing to say that rocks fall up. But usually, reality imposes limits on how far we can push our myths. What’s extraordinary about the present moment is how far most Republicans have gone in endorsing beliefs that are disconnected from reality and serve only to bind the sect and excommunicate the unfaithful.”
Jamelle Bouie, in his Six Weeks of Republican Shamelessness Have Done Real Damage: “In short, Republicans are establishing a new normal for the conduct of elections, one in which a Democratic victory is suspect until proven otherwise, and where Republicans have a “constitutional right” to challenge the vote in hopes of having it thrown out.”
Finally, I highly recommend this essay, Political Sectarianism in America, written by a group of 15 scholars and referenced by Edsall: “Political sectarianism consists of three core ingredients: othering—the tendency to view opposing partisans as essentially different or alien to oneself; aversion—the tendency to dislike and distrust opposing partisans; and moralization—the tendency to view opposing partisans as iniquitous. It is the confluence of these ingredients that makes sectarianism so corrosive in the political sphere. Viewing opposing partisans as different, or even as dislikable or immoral, may not be problematic in isolation. But when all three converge, political losses can feel like existential threats that must be averted—whatever the cost.”
It’s a very troubling trend.