How Much Do Americans Really Care About Bipartisanship?

“voters like bipartisanship more in theory than in practice. But that doesn’t mean bipartisan support isn’t still important politically. Voters may prefer more partisan policy results, but their stated desire for bipartisanship means that politicians can still benefit by at least trying to work together.”

Republicans Really, Really Dislike Biden. But It’s Not Just About Him.

“Members from the other party were once more willing to give a new president some benefit of the doubt early on — or at least, their opposition was not quite so baked in, as the figures for both Bush and Barack Obama suggest. What’s more, there hasn’t been a corresponding change in how strongly the president’s own party feels about him. Members of the president’s party overwhelmingly support him, but there hasn’t been an uptick in those who say they strongly approve of him.

This lack of crossover support for presidents in their first term in office points toward one of the most animating forces in American politics today: Increased disdain and hatred of one’s political opponents, known as “negative partisanship.” As the chart below shows, opinions about the other party have become far more unfavorable since the late 1970s.”

“Such hostile sentiments reflect a world in which each major party increasingly believes the other poses a threat to the country’s well-being.”

“such deep dislike will likely keep Republicans opposed to Biden regardless of his administration’s actions. It also means that like Trump, Biden will likely have to rely on his own party’s support to buoy his overall numbers.”

What Democrats Can Learn From Nebraska’s Shift To The Right

“in 1989, I entered a world where Nebraska straddled the middle of the political spectrum. But since then, the state has drifted so far from the center it’s hard to remember it was ever there. Using DW-NOMINATE data from the congressional vote tallying website Voteview, we can see just how far Nebraska’s political representatives have drifted rightward in the last thirty years. As you can see in the chart below, the average ideology score of Nebraska’s U.S. representatives and senators, as measured by DW-NOMINATE’s first dimension, shifted more than half a point between 1990 and 2020.1 Put in today’s terms, in 1990, the average Nebraskan in Congress was similar in ideology to outgoing Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, a moderate; whereas today she would more closely resemble Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who isn’t the most conservative Republican in Congress (that’s Sen. Mike Lee), but still drifts pretty far to the right on the ideological spectrum.”

“the Electoral College has always favored smaller states like Nebraska. But it is only somewhat recently that these states have heavily favored Republicans.”

“So what’s driving Nebraska’s (and other states’) rightward shift? In part, it has to do with the nationalization of American politics. Since the 1990s, Democratic voters have moved to the left on issues such as health care and immigration, while Republicans have become more likely to identify as conservative as their moderate candidates have dwindled. And in turn, this nationalization and polarization has made it more difficult for local candidates to successfully create their own platforms. For example, as governor and senator, Nelson often broke from his own party in an attempt to attract conservative voters, taking stances like advocating for a “hard barrier” to prevent illegal immigration or supporting various anti-abortion measures. But the days of candidates creating their own platforms are largely over, and the share of registered Democratic voters in Nebraska has also dropped.”

“This trend extends to lower levels of government, too, like the state legislature and city councils. Republican state lawmakers have also tried to eliminate prenatal care and repeal in-state tuition for immigrants, while giving local police the power to question the immigration status of anyone they suspect of living in the country illegally. A few towns have even passed ordinances that formally ban undocumented immigrants from renting property. All this is happening in a state that, until recently, settled a high number of refugees.

Meanwhile, on the education front, Republican lawmakers have leaned into national Republicans’ growing aversion toward public education, trying to eliminate Nebraska’s democratically elected board of education, while perpetual tax cuts and exemptions have led to two-thirds of Nebraska’s school districts receiving no general financial assistance from the state, which has contributed to public schools in rural Nebraska having “the most inequitable [state aid] distribution in the nation,” according to a nationwide study by the think tank, The Rural School and Community Trust. This is all in a state where Republicans once implemented income and sales taxes to increase K-12 schools’ funding, among a host of other progressive legislation.

But lest one think the effects of nationalization have completely remade states like Nebraska, many Nebraskans disagree with the GOP’s positions. Through ballot initiatives, for instance, Nebraska voters have approved a higher minimum wage, Medicaid expansion and casino gambling, even though Republicans officials, who continue to cruise to statewide victories, have opposed these measures.”

““If you ask people to vote for things that might be in their own interest, and you explain the issue to them in one paragraph on the ballot, they will vote for the thing that is good for them,” said Ari Kohen, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “But you can’t ask them to give up their party affiliation.”

People are reluctant to switch parties, but they can be swayed to change their mind about a specific cause, particularly when an issue is presented outside of a partisan context. State Sen. Tony Vargas, a Democrat in Omaha, told me that he thought Medicaid expansion passed — even though Nelson encountered a brouhaha over a similar issue just eight years prior— because it wasn’t tied to a particular politician or party. “If our ballot said ‘expanding Obamacare,’ I feel like people would have voted against it,” Vargas said. “Instead, we said ‘expanding Medicaid and addressing the gap.’ … It’s a lot harder to attack the issue. It’s much easier to attack the person.””

Social media is making a bad political situation worse

“it’s often difficult to understand which comes first: a polarized situation or the social media that aggravates that situation. Rather, it’s become a self-reinforcing system.”

“Animosity toward members of opposing parties is very high even though our divisions over policy preferences don’t appear to have grown, according to new research published in Science magazine. The paper brings together a number of different studies on the topic and is written by scholars from six disciplines who found that, these days, we’re more likely to hate the opposing side and consider them to be “different,” “dislikable,” and “immoral.” The result is a “political sectarianism” in which one’s party identity seems to come first, before policy, religion, or common ground. Political identity, in turn, shapes our other views instead of the other way around. For example, after seeing a clip of Donald Trump espousing a liberal policy, followers exhibited a more liberal attitude, according to the paper, which presumes Democrats would do the same for their political leaders.”

“The results of this kind of alignment are disastrous for a functioning democracy. As the researchers argue, “holding opposing partisans in contempt on the basis of their identity alone precludes innovative cross-party solutions and mutually beneficial compromises.””

“Then there’s distrust — encouraged by the president — of facts and journalism organizations, which are necessary to protect democracy. A series of Pew Research Center polls shows that Republicans rely on and trust fewer news sites for politics than they used to, with Fox News, Trump’s mouthpiece and a fount of disinformation, being one of few sources they regularly read and believe. However, research by Andy Guess, assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, looks at web traffic rather than people’s survey responses to reveal that there’s considerable and consistent overlap in media consumption between the parties, except among a smaller set of extremists. This suggests many people might be reading the same sources but coming to totally different conclusions. Wildly divergent interpretations of the same news is a more difficult problem to fix.”

“Hyperpartisanship, tense societal factors, and divergent news diets — or at least divergent interpretations of the news — are then fed back through social media, which is likely amplifying our divisions. We don’t know exactly how the social media algorithms work that select what information we see because the technology is a black box controlled by the respective social media company that built it.
What we do know is that Facebook has put less of an emphasis on news and more on engagement, and that posts with strong, emotional language have more engagement. We also know Facebook has continually promoted Groups since 2016, which can function as their own echo chambers, even without algorithmic help. YouTube, whose algorithms like other platforms were designed to make people spend more time on the site, has been shown to radicalize people through inflammatory messaging. Most recently, it has been awash in election misinformation.”

“The share of Americans who often get their news from social media grew 10 percentage points to 28 percent last year, according to Pew. Those who mainly get their news that way were also less informed about current events and more likely to have been exposed to conspiracy theories.”

“A new study from the University of Virginia found increased Facebook usage among conservatives is associated with reading more conservative sites than they normally do. The effect was less dramatic among liberals.

The study’s authors conjectured that the way Facebook works might have something to do with this outcome. In addition to algorithms favoring engagement, the very structure of Facebook limits who we talk to: You have to “friend” others to see their posts, meaning you’re less likely to see people outside of your real-life friends and family, who are more likely to have similar lives and viewpoints. Facebook also tweaked its algorithms after the 2016 election to promote posts from friends and family and show far fewer posts from news outlets, which likely further contributed to filter bubbles and division.”

“Research highlighted in the Wall Street Journal suggests that people on social media do see opposing viewpoints. But since sites like Facebook are calibrated to highlight posts that elicit reactions, we’re seeing the most acerbic of opposing views, which can lead people to be even more repelled by them. The result is even more entrenched viewpoints and more polarization.”

““It’s not just a matter of coming into contact with the other side,” Pariser told Recode about how his conception of filter bubbles has changed since he first coined the term. “It’s doing so in a way that leads us to greater understanding.””

In praise of polarization

“Polarization can create the conditions for overdue reckonings, for broader coalitions. When the parties were mixed, and racially conservative whites were seen as the key swing vote, racial issues were suppressed in American politics. The passage of the Civil Rights Act is the exception that proves the rule: Civil rights laws had been blocked in Congress for decades, and the rupture required to unblock them broke the party system of that era. The polarization of the parties around race and ideology — a story I tell in detail in my book Why We’re Polarized — created an incentive for one party, at least, to prioritize issues of racial justice.

As the parties became more polarized around racial issues, it became much safer for Democratic politicians to embrace racial issues,” says Christopher Stout, a political scientist at Oregon State University and the author of Bringing Race Back In: Black Politicians, Deracialization, and Voting Behavior in the Age of Obama. “Even in 2008, there was a lot of hesitancy to talk about race. Think back to Obama and Jeremiah Wright. But as white working-class voters who were racially conservative left the Democratic Party, it created space for Democrats to talk about race and be rewarded for it rather than punished for it.

Joe Biden’s career reflects the arc of this change. As he has gotten in trouble for saying, when he entered Congress, in the 1970s, he worked often with conservative, segregationist Democrats. These weren’t just coalitions of expedience: He took positions on issues like crime and busing meant to mollify racially conservative white voters. But Biden changed alongside his party. By 2008, those Democrats were gone, and Biden was Obama’s vice president, in an administration that cemented the Democratic Party’s identity as the party of a multiethnic America.”

“Identity politics is often tossed around as a slur, an epithet. A politics of identity is said to be exclusionary, pitting Americans against each other, denying them the common ground of shared experience. This is oft-made criticism of “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan, by those who prefer “all lives matter.” But we are seeing the rebuttal to that argument in the political reality of this moment, where 91 percent of Democrats — and 92 percent of white Democrats — express support for Black Lives Matter (as do 40 percent of Republicans). A politics of identity can be inclusionary, building bridges across experiences that would otherwise remain siloed.”

“Identity is never singular. We have many identities, some of them linked together, some of them sitting in tension. The story of modern political polarization is identities fusing together: Black, Jewish, liberal, atheist, urbanite — Democrat. White, evangelical, rural, conservative, hunter — Republican. Identity fusion creates stronger bonds of solidarity between those who share identities, and can create more conflict with those who become the out-group. It is both inclusionary and exclusionary. But for groups who’ve long been marginalized, who haven’t had the power to force their concerns and their experiences to the forefront of national politics, it can be transformative.
There is no action without reaction, of course. The promise of change that thrills some Americans unnerves others. Trump is president because Obama was president. We will not suddenly find agreement on America’s oldest divides, easy redemption for our oldest sins. And our political system is designed to reflect consensus, not resolve conflict. This is why, in part, polarization is so feared: It breeds government paralysis, wanton obstruction, dangerous brinksmanship.

Even so, we should prefer the difficulties of political conflict to the injustice of suppression. Police brutality is as old as America, but it has been rare for either of our major political parties to take it seriously, much less make it — and racial inequality more broadly — central to their agendas. Change at the level America needs may not be likely, but it would be impossible if neither party was willing to fight for it. That one is beginning to do so now is the product of relentless organizing, activism, and courage among Black Americans, but it is also the product of polarization, sorting, and identity politics.”

Our Caesar Can the country come back from Trump? The Republic already looks like Rome in ruins.

“in so many ways, ancient Rome is profoundly different from the modern U.S. It had no written constitution; it barely had a functioning state or a unified professional military insulated from politics. Many leaders were absent from Rome for long stretches of time as they waged military campaigns abroad. There was no established international order, no advanced technology, and only the barest of welfare safety nets.
But there is a reason the Founding Fathers thought it was worth deep study. They saw the destabilizing consequences of a slaveholding republic expanding its territory and becoming a vast, regional hegemon. And they were acutely aware of how, in its final century and a half, an astonishing republican success story unraveled into a profoundly polarized polity, increasingly beset by violence, shedding one established republican norm after another, its elites fighting among themselves in a zero-sum struggle for power. And they saw how the weakening of those norms and the inability to compromise and mounting inequalities slowly corroded republican institutions. And saw, too, with the benefit of hindsight, where that ultimately led: to strongman rule, a dictatorship.”