“I’m not just running against Biden — Sleepy Joe — I’m running against the corrupt media, the big tech giants, the Washington swamp. And the Democrat Party is a part of all of them — every single one of them. They flood your communities with criminal aliens, drugs and crime, while they live behind beautiful gated compounds….If you want depression, doom, and despair, vote for Sleepy Joe Biden.” (Donald Trump, 10/20/20)
I encourage you to read this good article by Richard Beck about “affective polarization” and how it has been increasing and leading to more political tribalism in our society. Affective polarization goes beyond having differences with others. It involves a spectrum of feelings about those with whom we disagree — from disagreement to distrust to dislike to demonization.
Beck and I agree about how this corrupts and breaks down the purpose and practice of politics.
Basically, politics should be a tool, a way to solve our social problems. But politics has become increasingly moralized, transforming itself into a holy war, a clash between Good and Evil. The pragmatic spirit is lost, and politics ceases to function as a tool to solve our problems. It’s all identity markers, wherever you look across the political landscape. No solutions, just the social signaling of Us versus Them.
Because of the technology available to him, there has been no greater practitioner of this in my lifetime in American politics than Donald Trump. Trump’s relentless provocation of affective polarization in our country, to me, is one of the most destructive elements of his presidency. As many have noted in the comments here at IM, partisan division has always been a feature of life in the U.S. However, there is no doubt that we owe the current high level of public affective polarization to Trump and his imitators, who have used the tools of this information age to carve deep divides among us in their pursuit of power.
My question is: Where is this going?