The record level of partisanship today fuels remarkable toxicity in American politics, and it stresses me out. As a nation we’re in constant fight mode among one another. We’re all clearly identified in one of our two camps – Democrats vs. Republicans – and don’t go crossing that line. For many they don’t just disagree with the other side, they hate the other side. It’s personal.
Of course there are moderates floating around the middle, but the percentage of moderates has been dropping steadily since the mid-1990s. We’re increasingly entrenching along party lines, and it’s worrying.
Citing a Pew Research Center study, The New York Times reports:
“…47 percent of Democrats said Republicans made them angry, while 46 percent of Republicans said the Democratic Party made them feel angry.”
We don’t just disagree with each other, we’re really pissed-off about it. We're angry.
We’re MSNBC vs. Fox News, and it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Thinking about in those terms, I realized I didn’t really know the history of either of those cable news networks, which I believe play a significant role in today’s partisan divide. It’s remarkable how the timing lines-up when you compare the rise of these cable news networks and the Pew study data going back to 1994 (see chart), showing steadily rising animosity over the past two decades.
MSNBC launched in July 1996.
Fox News launched in October 1996.
Again, see chart.
There are plenty of other factors in play, and I’m not conducting a deep statistical analysis here, but it’s hard not to think there’s some causation. And clearly Trump’s Presidency is its own brand of nastiness and hate and ignorance, with a total lack of dignity, but it’s today's partisan hatred that’s partly responsible for his rise.
I hope Trump goes away as soon as possible, and that he doesn’t destroy our national institutions, but even after he’s gone we should either cutback on Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity, or remind ourselves they’re stoking personal resentment for the other side. Let’s stick to our principles and advocate for the things we believe in, but do so with a little more civility, on both sides.
Hopefully then we’ll all be a little less stressed and pissed off.