The polarization of political views now has many Americans rightly worried about the future of their democracy. At least those that care about democracy. Some almost seem to welcome its end.
The polarization is reflected in the diverging and hardening of views of the two political parties. About all they can agree on is how little they have in common. One might think that this is due to both parties drifting away from the centre. One would be wrong. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, while the Democrats have shifted slightly left, the Republicans have shifted hard right.
The survey result is not surprising. Given the broad support in the GOP for the right-wing demagogue Donald Trump, the party is now flirting with fascism.
Results of the survey for the Senate, with senators judged on their voting records, are shown in the graph on the right. The results for the House of Representatives are much the same.
The graph covers the past 50 years, showing that the right-wing drift goes back decades. It was occurring long before Trump. Pew suggests that at least one reason is the dramatic shift in the demographic makeup of the parties with almost half of House Republicans now from southern states, while almost half of House Democrats are Black, Hispanic or Asian.
What used to be the place for compromise, the middle of the spectrum, has, particularly on the conservative side, largely vanished. Fifty years ago, many House Republicans were less conservative than the most conservative Democrat, and many House Democrats less liberal than the most liberal Republicans. No more.
Party antipathy is equally concerning. The numbers in both parties, but higher with the Republicans, that express very unfavourable opinion of the other party has significantly increased. Substantial numbers believe that the other party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”
Congress overall has drifted with the Republicans, with both the House and the Senate being much more right-wing than 50 years ago. This is opposed to the drift of the American people which has been slightly left.
A big question is how far all this will go. Will the Republicans wander right until they fall off the fascist cliff? If they continue to follow their Pied Piper, Donald Trump, that may well be their fate. And that of the Americans. And ours?