According to a recent survey, some 20% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans reported that on occasion they thought the country would be better off if large numbers of the opposition just died. A bit over 42% of the survey respondents in each party viewed the opposition as “downright evil.” When told their party was more likely than not to win in 2020, 18.3% of the Democrats and 13.8% of the Republicans indicated they would be more likely to support partisan violence. On both sides, the best informed voters were by far the most partisan.
These days partisan politics is a mix of loyalty to one side and hate towards the other. Take the case of Republicans and Trump supporters. I’ve read that prominent Republicans are not condemning Trump for his “go back where you came from” comments because, well, they’re a bunch of ideologues enamored of Trump’s particular brand of toxic ideas. I’m inclined to think the reticence to criticize Trump is more a matter of not wanting to help the Democrats regain the Whitehouse*. The basic thought is Trump may be an odious character but he’s less odious than the Democrats. And less a danger to the country. So we will remain loyal to Trump because the alternative is far worse.
Let’s just assume Trump is a racist, by which I mean he thinks Americans of European stock are better than Americans of other stock. What could be worse for America than a racist president? US presidents are supposed to represent the whole country - not just their “people”. Racism makes people feel unwelcome in their own country, like they don’t belong. Racism leads to discriminatory practices, which cause real harm to its victims.
On the other hand, a lot of Americans feel their personal situations have improved during the Trump years. Across surveys and income groups, consumer sentiment is higher than it’s been for years. Americans are upbeat about their personal finances, business conditions, and buying conditions. Small business optimism skyrocketed when Trump was elected and remains at levels unknown during the Obama years. Surveys also show that individual Americans and small businesses have long supported deregulation. Add it all together: Trump pushed tax-reform and deregulation. GDP growth, capital investment, wages and household income all went up, unemployment went way down. No wonder Trump has so many supporters. And yet to listen to Democratic candidates, the economy sucks and Trump supporters are a bunch of delusional racists.
One strike against the Democratic candidates is that they refuse to acknowledge that Trump’s policies may have done some good. That’s a big problem, because sound economic policy requires knowing what works as well as what needs fixing. Fueled by moral outrage and anti-capitalist rhetoric, the Democrats seem hellbent on undoing the economic reforms of the Trump administration and replacing them with lots of expensive programs funded by corporations, the rich and future tax payers.
The other strike against the Democrats is their politics of division and vilification. A medieval obsession with rooting out the devil that has infected the soul of the people and the nation. An urge to righteous retribution: ever ready to label, denounce, cast out. Who cares about due process, time passed, proportionate punishment - those are mere legalisms, this is Justice! Feelings matter! At least the feelings of some people - those who have been traumatized by a lifetime of oppression. This is the politics of intimidation.
So on one side we have a racist president who has pushed some decent policies that have improved the lives of most Americans. On the other, we have …the Democrats, who promise to undo those policies and usher in the new era of Payback.
Then again, Trump doesn’t care about the environment or even the possibility of climate change. Achieving universal health care is not a priority of his administration. He doesn’t seem to have any new ideas. He’s impulsive and reckless.
All we have are bad choices.
* Of course, some Republicans may be keeping quiet out of fear of being challenged by a Trump supporter during the 2020 primaries. But keep in mind only a third of the Senate will be facing elections next year.
Americans Feel Generally Positive About Their Own Finances by Megan Brenan? April 30, 2019 https://news.gallup.com/poll/249164/americans-feel-generally-positive-own-finances.aspx
Americans' Views on Government Regulation Remain Steady. Art Swift/Gallup October 11, 2017 https://news.gallup.com/poll/220400/americans-views-government-regulation-remain-steady.aspx
Assessing the Economic Impact of Deregulation. Nick Sargen/Fort Washington Investment Advisors August 8, 2018 https://www.westernsouthern.com/fortwashington/insights/assessing-the-economic-impact-of-deregulation
Charts — May 2019 Surveys of Consumers/University of Michigan Survey Research Center Institute for Social Research. https://data.sca.isr.umich.edu/
NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Monthly Report – May 2019, by William C. Dunkelberg and Holly Wade https://www.nfib.com/surveys/small-business-economic-trends/
The Conference Board/United States Consumer Confidence June 2019 https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/united-states/news/consumer-confidence/consumer-confidence-falls-to-near-two-year-low-in