Election Open Thread / Ad Hoc
(Moving this up on the page because, well, what else are we going to talk about?)
Rachel Katler’s Ad Hoc comic this week (below) is perfect for today, election day, and so I thought it would be good to combine it with an open thread about the election.
Your predictions, experiences, hopes, gripes, concerns, jokes, and comments about the election are welcome. Good luck to us all.
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Here’s a link to the non-partisan Election Protection coalition. You’ll find a list of numbers you can call to report intimidation at the polls.
Stay safe out there everyone, and may God bless America.Report
My optimistic prediction is that Biden will win big—by such significant margins that we will know the results with confidence by tomorrow. Yes, you see Trump fans waving their flags, displaying their yard signs, and running people off the road, but it’s always important to not forget about what you don’t see. I think many Republicans-of-conscience, who have remained relatively quiet, will not be able to bring themselves to vote for Trump again, and because that sucks for them, it is precisely these people who are going to be averse to responding to polls and so be undercounted in them.
Continuing with the optimism… Trump will complain that the election was rigged or that his supporters’ votes were suppressed but he will not put any real energy into fighting it. He is probably already thinking about the many post-election lucrative celebrity gigs that I’d bet have been dangled before him, or that he is dreaming up himself. His massive ego will finally pay off for the American people: it will allow him to be able to spin the results as a victory for himself in some form or another that he finds sufficiently convincing. Yes, he will continue to be corrupt to the very end of his term but at least then he will be out.
In related news, I find myself much more sympathetic to doxastic voluntarism.Report
Wednesday morning update: I may have overstated things with “win big” but it still seems like Biden is on track to win.Report
My prediction is that we’ll see a repeat of 2016, only Trump will win by a larger margin than before. The only indicator I see in Biden’s favor is polls — I don’t see any enthusiasm for him or Harris, only anti-Trump sentiment. This looks an awful lot like 2016.
It also appears that the conservative voting base is much more united this election (from what I have gathered living in rural PA and working in urban PA); I don’t see the libertarian party getting anywhere near the votes they received in 2016 without the name recognition of Gary Johnson.
It’s telling that many betting sites are reporting an overwhelming majority of election bets being placed are being placed on Trump. Indeed, most people I know outside of academia seem to think that Trump will win, and it’s fitting that election wagers reflect this. I can only imagine so many people think this because they know lots of people whom they believe will vote for Trump.
If it is the case that they’re right, and that it was so obvious or seemingly likely to so many people is indicative that there is a huge disconnect between them and academics (who, in my experience, seem to find a Trump win less than an obvious given to say the least). If they are right and the result was so obvious to them, what are they seeing that academics are not?
I think that question is worth asking, should Trump win again.Report
Do you have any sources for good systematic surveys of enthusiasm? If you think there’s a more reliable indicator here than polls, it would be useful for the rest of us to know about it. I’ve seen things about Trump merchandise vastly outselling Biden merchandise, but this seems like a heavily confounded metric, given that Trump has been selling products branded with his name for nearly 20 years (nearly 40 if you count real estate). Is there any other useful measure of enthusiasm other than the same polls that you are discounting?Report
I’ll feel terrible if Trump wins, but quite frankly I won’t feel much better if it’s Biden.
Living in the U.S. these days feels a bit like what I imagine living in the Weimar Republic in its final years was like. There’s a sense that entire ways of life and institutions are going to be obliterated, that the future holds chaos and war and all we can do at the moment is put band-aids on the wounds. Biden represents maybe the last chance to effect actual environmental policy, but it will be difficult, and probably not enough.Report
When polls close and when to expect results: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/politics/polls-close.htmlReport
Thanks, Andrew Sepielli. For some reason I had forgotten that election protection could be a non-partisan issue.Report
In reply to M. Perron,
Most of the people who most of us know best share many of the same beliefs that we do. That is what makes it a bad idea to use the people we know to make national predictions. The typical bettor is a white male without a college education, hardly a representative sample of voters.Report
Justin, I think you make the right point above (“it’s always important to not forget about what you don’t see”), though I think it cuts against your thinking rather than in favor of it.
As it turns out, Democrats: (1) didn’t take the Senate (probably), (2) didn’t expand in the House, (3) lost all sorts of relevant statewide stuff (see Politico today on how they’ve lost redistricting for a decade), and (4) ended up barely eeking out a presidential victory against the worst president in history.
Along almost any metric, this is a best-possible outcome for Republicans (i.e., there was no serious way Trump was going to win). So, at the end of the day, there was no blue wave, as was prophesized by almost every poll and major media outlet. The Republicans dramatically outperformed the projections (in 2020, as in 2016).
In other words, the Republican party is (still) much more mainstream than liberals imagine. It’s not all uneducated white dude bros, it’s lotsa people. 70,000,000+ in fact. And insofar as people keep underestimating that voting block, it obviously comprises a broader (unseen) base than its critics recognize.Report
“I think it cuts against your thinking rather than in favor of it.”
My comment was about some Republican voters not being able to bring themselves to vote for Trump. Nothing you refer to in your comment speaks against that.
In fact, your comment is a good example of the following type of phenomenon which we tend to see a fair amount of on the internet: people responding to things they imagine their interlocutor believes rather than responding to things their interlocutor actually says. It’s a version of nonobviously changing the subject. Is there a widely-accepted good name for this rhetorical move? Is it just a version of the red herring fallacy?
Anyway, a better criticism of my initial prediction would be that it overlooked the significance of voter turnout. More people have voted for Biden in this election than have voted for any other presidential candidate in the history of the United States.Report
We must just not be on the same page here, because now I feel like the fallacy you just identified is how I’d characterize your reply to my post, which I meant in good faith. I guess dismissing my comments by accusing me of a fallacy is something else people do online.
What I’d been trying to identify was that, just as you indicate there are something like invisible Biden supporters, so are there invisible Trump supporters. To follow your analogy re: Trump fans waving their flags, there are just as many (and probably more) BLM signs in people’s front yards. And then that fact leads us to be overconfident as to whether there’d be something like a blue wave.
So, structurally, the comment I quoted from you goes both ways, was all I was trying to say. I wouldn’t diagnose this in terms of voter turnout so much as failures in polling, or how social media makes us think the Republican base is different from what it actually is. The comment about the numbers doesn’t deny that Biden is getting more votes than ever, it’s meant to indicate that Republican support is broader than people thought it would have been.Report
I know a lot of people who either voted for Trump or were openly sympathetic to what they took him to represent. I did not see their perspective represented in the last election cycle. And i’m not surprised Trump nearly won. I was working at a YMCA north of Pittsburgh during the last presidential election, and as soon as you left the city it was Trump signs everywhere. I’ve been in Europe since then, but from what I’ve seen that sentiment is still pretty strong outside the cities.
I think at this point we have good data that shows American political polarization over the last 30 years, and the subsequent growth of a “perception gap” on both sides, has been fueled by extremists from both parties. As a result, we overestimate our differences and demonize people who probably agree with us about more than we realize. Data on the impact of new media on teenagers is just coming in, but I suspect the perception gap has been exacerbated by post-Cold War market forces that led to a coordination between each party and segments of the entertainment industry, what passes for “journalism” today, and big tech/new media that are sympathetic to party interests. That might call for some intellectual or ideological trust-busting. I’m not sure what it would look like.
But if the American people are so uniformly divided as this election seems to show, and given how widely out of step our perceptions of one another appear to be, it is all the more important we work harder at understanding each other (I hope we’re passed the days when tenured professors can tell people on the APA blog that familiy members who voted for Trump are bigots). Moderate voices of intelligence and good will need to start taking a more active role in communicating across political divides. Organiizations like Better Angels, BridgeUSA, Letter, and Weave are beginning to play a part. I think every American with a public-facing persona today has some measure of duty to thoughtfully take part in this effort.
Two final thoughts. Whatever else they involve, Brexit, Trump, and the rise of populism in Europe over the last few years are products of a growing conflict between urban globalism and non-urban nationalism (Goodhart calls them the people from anywhere and the people from somewhere). That conflict has only spread since Trump’s election, both at home and abroad. I still don’t see it accurately depicted in the media. From what I can tell, of my own circle of friends and family, Trump represented a retrenchmant to a way of life that was perceived to be disappearing on account of decisions made by urban globalists who had little to no stake in the ways of life that are being replaced. I get that. And I get the irony of people descended from families that moved to one side or the other of the American Rockies upset about their way of life being replaced.
Still, I keep coming back to the thought that there’s nothing wrong, in itself, with wanting to grow old in a place that is like the place you grew up in. And some Americans prefer a sense of space and self-sufficiency in nature that the Brooklyn hipster elite is only just beginning to appreciate (I’m serious about that–I think the craftsman aesthetic of hipsters may be the salvation of the Eastern seaboard). As a political value, that is something it appears the progressive vanguard would do better to try to understand (this isn’t to deny that non-urban nationalists have plenty to do when it comes to sympathizing with the other side as well, of course).
I’ll close by echoing the benediction Andrew Sepielli rightfully opened the discussion with: Stay safe out there, and may God bless America.Report
In way of anxiety, I’m pretty dispirited that this is going to go on for two more months because of the Senate run-offs in Georgia. After Alaska and North Carolina are called for the Republicans (right?), it’ll be 50-48, with Republicans needing one of the Georgia seats to retain control of the Senate, and Democrats needing both.
But, even setting aside policy preferences, this just means two more months of campaigning, toxicity, and everything else. And the stuff that hangs in the balance is **massive**, like whether the chance of big-ticket items like health care and immigration are ~100% likely to pass or ~0% likely to pass. That’s going to keep everyone up at night, from both parties. (Personally, I can’t imagine Georgia electing two Democratic senators, but we’ll see. Could easily depend on things that have nothing to do with Georgia, like whether a vaccine is announced or isn’t.)Report
Justin wrote above: “More people have voted for Biden in this election than have voted for any other presidential candidate in the history of the United States.”
This is a nonsense comment. Donald Trump in 2020 received the 2nd most votes for President of the United States in the history of the United States.
Until folks on the left start to grapple with why so many people are supporting Trump–and most of them aren’t racists or otherwise deplorable–Democrats are going to continue to lose.Report
What evidence do you have that Trump supporters are not racist? It’s pretty clear and evident that Trump IS a RACIST, and that these people support him and his racism.
“I’ll feel terrible if Trump wins, but quite frankly I won’t feel much better if it’s Biden.“
I’m feeling quite a lot better, personally.Report
Andy McCabe’s wife should call Trump and ask him how it feels to be a loser.Report
With the Biden victory, we can say that the condition of the United States has been upgraded to something like “catastrophically moribund.” No halfway adequate political system would have allowed Donald Trump anywhere near the corridors of power. To this must be added the persistent failures of American politics, over decades, to deal with racial and gender injustice, economic inequality, climate change, etc., etc.
The basic premises of the American union clearly need a fundamental rethinking; we cannot continue to accept uncritically a system set in place by a bunch of 18th century slave owners and their Northern enablers. Philosophers have a great deal to contribute to such rethinking. Speaking as an outsider, I hope they will do so.Report
“Still, I keep coming back to the thought that there’s nothing wrong, in itself, with wanting to grow old in a place that is like the place you grew up in.”
I can see a lot of things wrong with that, depending on what it is I do not want to change about the place in which I live. For example, if I do not want to see certain demographic or cultural changes in the place I grow old in, then that possibly makes me intolerant, which might be “inherently wrong” in a great deal of cases, depending on what it is I do not wish to tolerate.Report
Hi Kevin. That’s what the “in itself” clause was meant to flag.
And a comment appeared last night which seems to have disappeared into the aether. In response to my remark above, someone said something to the effect that while they used to think it was imperative to try to talk across boundaries today, experience with Trump voters and the conspiracy theories they go in for has led them to think differently. I can appreciate that stance. Still, if it’s right that the moderates among us are a lot more widespread than we appreciate, and that the perception gap is being driven by the extremes of each party (and their corresponding media machines), then it may be that we can make headway in overcoming some of the tribalism that seems to have swept through American politics over the last few decades by striving to talk to sensible people with opposing political views–if for no other purpose than in the interest of trying to better understand one another. The organizations I mentioned above seem well positioned to help us do that.
If you look in the right places, there’s plenty of good will on the ground as well. A meeting between BLM and the Proud Boys in October in Salt Lake City comes to mind. It’s clear those folks sat down together in a good-faith effort to better understand each other. If you listen to the press conference they spoke at afterward, it’s also clear they were largely successful, that the portrayal of each organization by the media was out of step with what they actually represent, and that they did indeed share a set of core values around the notion of an American identity. A joint political commercial for the Democrat and Republican candidates for Governor of Utah also emphasized a common ground that people of both sides share. One might be inclined to think there’s something about the Rocky Mountain water in Utah, but I suspect the source is more proximal in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Report
The author of the disappeared comment Preston refers to asked to have it removed.Report
Fair enough. And FYI, the reply button seems not be working.Report
Pace Preston, I guess I find the “in itself” proviso unhelpful. “In itself,” there is nothing wrong with me wanting to grow old in a place that is like the place I grew up in is compatible with me not wanting to grow old in a place where the sky is green, or the number of blades of grass is even rather than odd. But I take it these are not the features of their communities that many Trump supporters want to conserve, and the writing on the wall here is that that feature is, if I could put it into a single word, whiteness.Report
Well as I said, the proviso was meant to address precisely that worry–and it was made in a context where I’d just referenced the destruction of the American Indian way of life. I dont think it stretches charity to see that, and I’m arguing that we can do better than single-word analyses like ‘racism’ and ‘whiteness’. But perhaps you can say a little bit about what you think might have been a more helpful proviso instead?Report
“ The basic premises of the American union clearly need a fundamental rethinking; we cannot continue to accept uncritically a system set in place by a bunch of 18th century slave owners and their Northern enablers. Philosophers have a great deal to contribute to such rethinking. ”
Unless they fancy their chances in a civil war, there is limited value in anyone working out a new and better system prior to working out how to gain and hold power under the existing one.Report
“But perhaps you can say a little bit about what you think might have been a more helpful proviso instead?”
Since I’m not arguing for the same conclusions as you are, I don’t really have any reason to do so, and indeed, my point is that there shouldn’t be a proviso. It’s like saying there’s nothing wrong, in itself, with swinging a baseball bat in a discussion about people who are swinging baseball bats at people’s heads. (I’m not saying Trump supporters are doing that, and I hope the point of the analogy is clear).
What feature of their communities do Trump supporters not want to see change, if not the demography? Although you state that you’re considering this in the abstract, your implicature is that it’s probably something more wholesome than that what I’m claiming the base wants–they don’t want to see non-white, non-native English speakers, non-Christians, etc., having a presence in their communities. That seems to me to be the kind of change that they are resisting. They have a conception of America as a land of people who are like them, and the prospect of that changing bothers them.Report
Also, why do you feel the need to abstract away from the details of what they actually want? That seems like a tacit acknowledgment of the fact that the details are, well, kind of unflattering. Sorry, I admire the diplomatic spirit of your post and don’t want to be polemical. I just think you’re giving them too much of a pass on issues that largely come down to intolerance, even if not in their entirety.Report
Thanks Kevin, that’s helpful, and I think I see where you’re coming from. For my part, I’ve been trying over the last few years to understand the broader phenomenon that I take to include Brexit and the rise of populism in Europe. As I said above, I think the conflict is one between urban globalists and non-urban nationalists–the former are exemplified by people living in places like L.A. and NYC who identify more with people from London and Berlin, say, than people from small-town Louisiana or Montana, whereas the non-urban nationalists identify more with people from small American towns than those from the urban centers. It seemed to me that this was the divide right after the last presidential election, and I’m convinced it’s still a useful demarcation. In the British case, David Goodhart has identified a similar phenomenon in what he calls the people from “anywhere” and the people from “somewhere”, and he also thinks that a repudiation of Brexiters on account of their supposed “racism” fails to appreciate the complexity of the motivations that led to that outcome.
And to reiterate something else I’d said above, I don’t think it helps to let the extremists speak for the two parties. Musa al-Gharbi and Sean Stevens published a number of essays at the Heterodox Academy over the last couple of years, detailing the way the Perception Gap that has developed since the 1990s is being fueled by simplistic analyses that do not do justice to the positions of the other side. Thomas Sowell voted for Trump this election; not exactly a white supremecist. In fact, it looks like Trump increased his vote share with every demographic except white men this time around. John McWhorter published an essay a couple of years ago on the way the otherwise noble case of anti-racism sometimes obscures underlying problems that are more complicated, and which require different interventions.
There’s no doubt that the “white replacement theory” motivated some Trump voters–but when the New York Times publishes an editorial with the headline “Trump’s Last Stand for White America”, that’s the kind of rhetoric that emboldens the extremists and only amplifies their voices. It plays right into their cause. And I’m trying to make a case that we should be drowning out the extremists on both sides, and to close the Perception Gap by looking for the common ground that unites us as Americans. If the data is right, we really do agree about a lot more than we realize. So it’s high time to start focusing on that, it seems to me. The press conference between BLM and the Proud Boys in Salt Lake City, for instance, is just the kind of thing we should be trying to raise to salience and reproduce.
But I am an avowed optimist when it comes to the American project, and I appreciate that other people will see things differently. Thanks for the chance to think through this in a bit more detail.Report
One last thought. If you look up the BLM/PB press conference, avoid the pablum of the media coverage of the event and watch the video of the actual conference. It will take 20 minutes, but you get a chance to see the humanity of the people involved. It’s overwhelmingly obvious that we are seeing the result of two groups of people, who otherwise thought they didn’t have much in common, coming together and discovering a place of shared value, inspiration, and collective will. It is profoundly American, and we should be striving for more of the same.Report
Preston Stoval, I think your analysis has much merit, but your optimism is sadly misplaced. The US is irrevocably divided. Rupert Murdoch, social media, and a national culture especially inclined to individualism and conspiratorial thinking have had their effect and there is no substantial recovery from this point. Your point about “Moderate voices of intelligence and good will communicating across political divides” sadly will never be taken up by a substantial proportion of the population. How many smug liberals or delusional Trumpists will make any reasonable attempt to understand people on the other side? The US will continue its overall decline that is already clearly underway and hyperpartisan politics will continue to be one of the main driving forces of this. It surprises me how many smart Americans are in denial about this. I guess, after being the dominant global superpower for so long, and being fed a diet of American exceptionalism (which even smug liberals who consistently call out their country apply to their own cherished domains of influence) its hard for Americans to see the elephant in the room.
Anyway, my hope is that the rest of the world will see the US as a cautionary tale and avoid some of the missteps that have led to its current predicament. Smart, educated Americans who come to accept that their society is doomed should do what people from other countries have done throughout the 20th century and immigrate on mass to places that have more promising futures. Don’t think of this as selfish selling out, your talents and efforts will probably do much more good in these up and coming places than at home.Report
Hi JTD. Thanks for your thoughts (and note it’s “Stovall”, with two l’s). Ironically, you seem to be echoing remarks from Thomas Sowell that I came across today, made in conversation with Larry Elder (see Sowell’s youtube channel and the video “Why Thomas Sowell Voted for Trump”, at the 10:22 mark). He said:
So perhaps you can take heart that some black conservatives seem to share your view?
But I’m not so ready to give up on the country yet. It’s just not that easy to think I could abjure the U.S. and go somewhere else. I’ve spent over 10 years living overseas in different places in Europe and the Middle East, and I enjoy being an American in other cultures, but the U.S. is home. And my relation to my country is like my relation to my family–I value them both de re. Neither is fungible in the sense that another one would do just as well. But again, I recognize that not everyone has that attitude toward family and country. Here’s hoping it’s more common than comments like yours or Sowell’s might lead us to believe!Report
Commenting briefly on the JTD/Preston Stovall exchange:
Given the successes of authoritarian movements or leaders in (a non-exhaustive list) Poland, Hungary, the UK, India, Russia, China, and Turkey over the last decade or two, and the various interconnections between those movements, it would be an odd form of inverted US exceptionalism to think that there is something uniquely American about the US’s current political travails. So if the US is ‘irrevocably divided’ and its ‘society is doomed’, the implications are pretty broad and pretty dark, and running away is an unreliable panacea.
Personally, I’ll stay optimistic: about the US in particular, and about people in general. There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.Report
Thanks for engaging. I find your inclusion of the UK on this list baffling. It has no significant authoritarian movements and certainly no authoritarian leaders (authoritarian ≠ popularism) and there is a world of difference between politics in the UK and in these other countries. If your point stands it must be because the other countries you cite show that the situation in the US is not unique. However, here I think you have missed the characteristic that people like me have in mind when we make this argument. We are not saying that the US’s circumstances are unique because of the democratic backsliding going on. This would be absurd because democratic backsliding in the US is rather mild whereas there are much more extreme versions of it in some of the countries you cite that predate the US’s present problems. Our point is rather about hyperpartisanship. The current hyperpartisanship in the US (which has been growing over a number of years) seems unprecedented in post WWII politics (with the possible exception of a handful of countries where political institutions completely broke down and an actual civil war started). Certainty, there has been no functional state that has had a hyperpartisanship problem like the US. In none of the countries you cite is hyperpartisanship part of their current problems, or part of the story of how they underwent democratic backsliding. Our prediction is that this unprecedented hyperpartisanship will exacerbate the US’s decline–socially, culturally, and economically. We believe that it has reached a point where it cannot effectively be dialed back to arrest that decline. Other countries, particularly Western democracies, also have increasing levels of partisanship. But it is nothing like the US. Many have cultural and institutional factors on their side to help prevent it getting out of hand, and all of them have the chance to learn from the US’s missteps and take active steps to arrest it.
I stand by the claim that the US is irrevocably divided. But I acknowledge that talking about it being “doomed” was unnecessarily hyperbolic. What will happen in the decades ahead is a continued decline involving social disharmony, loss of cultural influence, more dysfunctional institutions, and a reduced economic standing. The US will become a significantly less desirable place to live and work. The choice between it and other democracies with advanced economies will become more stark. Some will even prefer living in authoritarian states to living in the US because they value social harmony and economic prosperity more than civic freedoms. That, in any case, is what the evidence suggests to me, but I am interested in seeing counterarguments against this view.Report
“I find your inclusion of the UK on this list baffling. It has no significant authoritarian movements and certainly no authoritarian leaders (authoritarian ≠ popularism) and there is a world of difference between politics in the UK and in these other countries.”
As a non-exhaustive list drawn up from memory, since taking office last summer, Boris Johnson and his allies have:
– suspended (‘prorogued’) Parliament in a (failed) attempt to stop it voting on Brexit;
– threatened the UK Supreme Court with retaliation over their blocking of that suspension
– withdrawn the whip from a large group of Conservative loyalists shortly before the election, ending their careers;
– suppressed Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on foreign interference in the Brexit vote until after the 2019 election;
– threatened independent broadcasters with regulatory action over their refusal to play along with him skipping a leader’s debate in that election;
– largely bypassed Parliamentary scrutiny of the withdrawal agreement with the EU;
– attempted to appoint a loyalist as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee in violation of the norm that that committee chooses its own chair;
– made preliminary moves to prevent judicial review of government actions;
– passed legislation through the Commons that breaches international law;
– ignored regional and non-English-national elected officials in their development of coronavirus policy.
I’m a fairly close observer of UK politics and I’ve never seen anything like it. All of this is either entirely unprecedented or a drastic escalation of much smaller abuses under previous governments. I don’t think the UK government is as far along the road to authoritarianism as the Trump administration (nor is the US as far along as Hungary and Poland, or Hungary and Poland as far along as Turkey) but there are very clear parallels. (And hyperpartisanship is more important in the UK than I think you acknowledge – Brexit has created very deep divisions which are increasingly redefining UK politics and had a lot to do with Johnson’s rise, though this is a more complicated story and of course parallels between any two countries are always imperfect.)
On the broader issue, I think my main objection is to your claim that US hyperpartisanship is irrevocable. I don’t think you’ve given any real evidence for that. Is it *difficult* to see how it would slow or reverse? Sure. (Though a sustained period of strong growth and loose money under an administration that mostly doesn’t do 51/49 things is at least worth trying.) But that doesn’t prove anything. History isn’t easy to predict. The politics of 2020 was scarcely obvious in 1980. If you’re just saying you’re pessimistic about it, that’s fair enough.Report
I am wondering if hyper-partisanship (and associated ‘closed mindedness’) is not a cause of ‘decline’ in the US (as
JTD mentioned above), but is rather a psychological symptom of it.
It is understandable that many people double down on their views as a bulwark against uncertainty. Uncertainty is scary for many and people need to feel in control of events, in control of the narrative, to believe that things make sense, that things aren’t falling apart. They therefore cling to familiar ways of thought and life, and the viewpoints they have long held which they are comfortable with Perhaps this is why so much political discourse, journalism and punditry in the US (watch TV any night) is so rife with confirmation bias such that almost no evidence to the contrary will ever change anyone’s views. This is not only a right wing phenomenon either. There is a good deal of closed mindedness on the left as well. Note that there is a good deal of research on this in the social sciences (cf. current work on knowledge resistance, Arie Kruglanski’s work on closed mindedness, etc.).Report
This is not a counterargument to the claim that hyperpartisanship has increased or has negative effects, but one counterargument to the claim that hyperpartisanship will lead to decline is that among the under-40 population, the partisan split is far from even. Biden would have been elected in a massive landslide, had the only voters been younger, and the under-40 population is just over half the nation’s population right now. Even where they are politically divided on some issues, they have greater unity on matters that influence the older electorate. We saw this play out in the sudden shift on LGBTQ issues and support for same-sex marriage, and we are seeing it play out in the shift toward supporting marijuana legalization. The generations of voters who opposed those changes are no longer as influential and numerous. To the extent that voters under 40 continue to lean sharply left as they age, and can agree on certain policies across the board, we might see less social disharmony and less gridlock than we see today.Report
I would appreciate hearing advice about how to communicate with Trump voters. I’m a non-partisan who usually can find enough common ground to communicate meaningfully with people from across the political spectrum. My students have ranged from far left to far right, and I hope I have been able to engage all of them in a helpful and intellectually serious manner even when we disagree. Perhaps especially when we disagree! Yet the current situation is different.
I can have useful discussion with both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, but what can be said in the face of absolute insistence that Biden and Harris embrace the murder of full-term healthy infants? This is not an unusual claim; this is a belief shared by most Trump voters I know personally. Likewise, conservatives and liberals can have a good discussion about the pros and cons of possible responses to the pandemic, and what should be done about vaccines. Yet the Trump voters among my family and friends have beliefs like “Bill Gates will use the vaccine to install tracking microchips”, and “government is using mask mandates to measure our compliance and obedience, so that we can be manipulated.” Political discussion often involves some degree of dispute about facts – e.g. do policies like concealed carry or capital punishment affect crime rates? do communities benefit economically from an influx of immigrants or not? – but this isn’t a mere dispute about facts. We have people living in wildly different universes of fact, with little hope for a bridge across due to increasing ill-will.
I know extreme and irrational beliefs appear across the political spectrum, but right now the worst examples are fairly specific to Trump voters. Picking up on Sowell’s claims above as an example, calls to abolish the police may seem extreme or misguided to those of us who believe just and fair policing is possible, but they aren’t based on fantasy. They prompt those who have had mostly positive experiences with police to wonder why some people have experienced policing so profoundly damaging rather than helpful that they now prefer abolition to reform. Meanwhile, claims that rioters have reduced cities across the nation to ash and rubble are not tethered to factual reality, even as they may be linked to reasonable judgments like “vandalism is bad” and “violence is wrong”. How does one communicate effectively across these gaps?Report