Politics used to be less socially divisive.
That’s the gist of a new study by the Pew Research Center, as explained by Dan Balz at the Washington Post. By “almost every measure,” Pew claims to have found that the gaps between Republicans and Democrats “have increased over the past 2 years, and in some cases now seem to represent almost unbridgeable divisions.”
Americans may bemoan partisan gridlock in Washington, but they need only look at the report to understand the root of the problem. Polarization in Washington is not just politicians behaving badly. It reflects what is happening around the country. Partisanship has grown dramatically and shows no sign of abating. . . .
Not exactly shocking news, eh? Over what are we divided? Balz states the obvious: “Some of the most significant differences . . . were on core issues of the 2012 campaign: the role and scope of government and the social safety net.”
Why more division now than in the past?
Because in the past government was smaller. As more and more people become sated with the level of government we have, they start objecting to increases in its size and scope. There have always been folks who want more government. Now their number effectively dwindles. In the “good old days,” there was a “consensus” — a larger percentage — for more government.
Well, we got that “more government.” And fewer and fewer folks like what they see.
Unlike when I was a kid, today the protest against government growth has the teeth of large numbers. So of course “mainstream” discourse has become divisive. It will remain so until the numbers of pro-government-growth-at-all-costs folks dwindle into insignificance.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.