Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Dividing Nation: Evidence #4

This is my final evidence (at least in this four-part series) on how the United States is dividing as a society. My first evidence was that Americans are demonstrating an increasing intolerance for the politics of those Americans that do not share their political orientation. So much so that Americans are actually physically moving into states, cities, or neighborhoods where they can "flock" together with those that are politically "bird of feather" and away from those that are not. Second, I shared evidence that this physical separation is also very much cultural, as we see two emerging Americas: one urban and the other rural. This becomes even more apparent as with the rise of neo-city-states ("the emerging megaregions") in the United States that will only exasperate this tension. Third I shared evidence that there is an increased, indeed historical (at least since the Civil War), political polarization in American politics as Republicans and Democrats become increasingly further to the right or the left of the respective median in the opposite party.

For my fourth and final evidence we'll see that Americans manifest their political polarization in their ideological worldview as illustrated by the narrow selection of news sources each side of the political aisle listens to. We find this evidence here in the graph below, as drawn from the Pew Research Center:

Main Source of Government and Political News

As you can surmise from the chart, one's political orientation on the political continuum correlates to what news sources a person is willing to entertain. This is especially true for those on the politically far right, who are the primary audience for Fox News.

What does this all mean? I suppose that at a certain level, each side now has its own news sources to support their respective presuppositions and critical assessment of what may or may not be "truth" is not required. Obviously the "other guys" are simply wrong. This lends weight to the increasing intolerance each party member has for those of the opposite party.

Concluding with our four pieces of evidence, one might ask when in history did we see such similar divisions in American society?  Here are probably the most important times:
  • The American Revolution, as American divided themselves into two groups: rebels and Loyalists. Interestingly many Loyalists left the US and migrated to Canada and elsewhere in the British Empire.  This equaled approximately 15% of the American population. And as seen in evidence #1  Americans today are doing the same thing: migrating to places away from their political opposites and to those of the same political bent, albeit by changing neighborhoods (or states) rather than countries. 
  • The Civil War is the another obvious example. This time was marked by sectionalism. Indeed Congress functioned not with opposing political parties, but opposing demographics as a Congressman's vote was determined by the state of his residence rather than his party affiliation. This divergence in time culminated in war. 
  • The Industrial Revolution would in time transform the US from an agrarian nation with a majority rural population into an urban one. The US became a majority urban society in 1920 and is currently 85% urban today. This shift was more than simply one of city folks versus country folks, but one that was more substantively profound. If you're interested you can visit a discussion on this dichotomy (Gemeinschaft culture versus Gesellschaft) here. The differences generated by industrialization are probably the most profound in American history and undoubtedly have lent themselves in shaping the cultural and political divisions that exist to this present day.  
  • Lastly was the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. This was more than simply black versus white, but also male versus female and Native versus non-native American and Hispanic versus non-Hispanics. While the civil rights movement generated much hope and new possibilities, that window has now seemed to have closed. Indeed, we seem to be re-splitting also along racial lines as well as political lines, even demographically as the races continue to isolate themselves from the other. This is not good.  
What is the  final outcome at the end of the day? Increased social division, an increased indifference toward finding common ground, an intractable Congress immobilized by polarized politics, all the while the US transforms into a post-industrial and post-modern caricature of itself.

The end is nigh. 

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Emphatic language can be couched in kind words. Let's all be adults here and use our words constructively.