This week, the University of Virginia Center for Politics released a poll surveying Americans’ feelings about their political opponents. According to the poll, 80% of Biden voters and 84% of Trump voters believed that elected officials of the opposite party present a “clear and present danger to American democracy”; 78% of Biden voters believed that the Republican Party wanted to eliminate the influence of “progressive values” in American life, while 87% of Trump voters believed that the Democrats wanted to eliminate “traditional values”; 75% of Biden voters and 78% of Trump voters believed that the opposing party’s supporters were a “clear and present danger to the American way of life.”
These statistics are, of course, alarming. The popular theory these days is that willingness by both Democrats and Republicans to abandon democratic norms — election result acceptance, checks and balances, due process of law and all the rest — is purely the result of reactionary dislike. If you fear your neighbor is going to abuse the process, you’d be a fool to stick to the process — and the more we dislike our neighbors, the more we fear that they’ll take advantage of us.
But is this theory correct? Is polarization actually the reason for increased willingness to ditch democratic norms?
According to a new study from political scientists David Broockman of the University of California, Berkeley, Joshua Kalla of Yale and Sean Westwood of Dartmouth, the answer is no. They write, “We find no evidence that an exogenous decrease in affective polarization causes a downstream decrease in opposition to democratic norms.” In other words, Americans hating each other less does nearly nothing to reduce Americans’ willingness to override democratic norms in order to achieve their goals.
If polarization isn’t driving the undermining of norms, what is? Perhaps the answer is that the reverse is actually occurring: As we’ve abandoned democratic norms, we’ve come to despise our neighbors.
This makes a certain amount of logical and correlative sense. The Founding Fathers had a particular vision of human nature, believing human beings were capable of great things but were also rife with sin and corruption. Given the variability of human nature, epistemic humility — a recognition that human beings are often wrong — would be necessary. And that epistemic humility would translate into a desire for liberty. High-level government, in this view, would be hamstrung from cramming down a unitary form of virtue on a pluralistic society, at least; subsidiarity, in which local communities governed themselves while the federal government maintained certain basic norms, would be the proper approach. The federal government would be pitted against itself through checks and balances, creating obstacles that would necessitate broad agreement about use of power to legitimize such use of power.
Today, however, most Americans seem to instinctively recoil from this vision of human nature and its concomitant governmental approach. Instead, human beings are held to be entirely malleable creatures of circumstance who can be molded by a better system into their highest selves. Grant the “right person” with the “right principles” unending power, democratically or not, and watch virtue spring forth. The government isn’t the problem, it’s the solution.
The problem with this, of course, is that we all have different ideas of the right person and the right principles. And once we have agreed that the government ought to have the ability to fix all our problems, anyone who stands in our way becomes a heretic. By abandoning the Founders’ accurate characterization of human nature and the governmental structure embodied in the Constitution, we set ourselves up for polarization and rage.
Perhaps the first step toward fixing our newfound dislike for democratic norms is to re-inculcate not love of neighbor, but understanding of human flaws, human foibles and the limits of human understanding. Perhaps we ought to start with some epistemic humility. From that source, perhaps a renewal of democratic norms and an embrace of our neighbors might spring.
Ben Shapiro, 37, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers “How To Destroy America In Three Easy Steps,” “The Right Side Of History,” and “Bullies.” To find out more about Ben Shapiro and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
The art of politics was always about give and take, compromise and finding common ground. Great debates took place in the past on critical issues and published as news, Webster, Calhoun, and others come to mind. The Democrat liberal left, the radicals changed all that, every issue became all or nothing, no debate, no comprimise, and then they dragged in personality as part of the question, not the merits of the proposal. That’s what polarized politics, issues could no longer be debated and those involve walk away as friends, it became personal animosity toward someone who disagreed.
I agree. WE USED to be able to compromise with the democrats, find common ground etc.
NOW DAYS THERE IS NO common ground with them. YOU ARE EITHER WITH THEM, or you are an enemy of the state that needs to be hounded and persecuted. AND THEIR idea of compromising is “WE GIVE THEM EVERYTHING THEY WANT< while they give us NOTHING WE NEED"..
I think that the socialist Democrat Party is deliberately cultivating hate. Hate those who disagree with the destructive Democrat’s agendas. Democrats are willing to destroy themselves and everyone around them before they will agree to compromise their failed policies and destructive beliefs.
Just look at the hate from Nasty Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Tinkerbell Pinocchiobama, “Crooked Hillary” and Joe Beijing Biden.
The Democrat Party wins most of their followers
because they are ill-informed or low intellect.
Their propaganda or narrative works on an emotional level, not on the intellect level.
Thursday, March 12, 2015. Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)
“Biden went on to assure the pro-LGBTQ crowd that even though the Obama administration cannot enforce a thought police, people who stand for their religious convictions are in the process of being wiped out — as the White House’s homosexual agenda continues to proliferate across the nation. Carson and others who ascribe to the biblical view of homosexuality should be eradicated from the planet in the name of “equality” and “tolerance.” “
“78% of Biden voters believed that the Republican Party wanted to eliminate the influence of “progressive values” in American life, while 87% of Trump voters believed that the Democrats wanted to eliminate “traditional values…”
And they are absolutely correct!
I’d go so far as to say, that a LARGE majority of those supposed ‘democrats, would actually be ok with not just eliminating traditional values, but ELIMINATING THOSE WHO believe in said traditional values…