It’s human nature to think that whatever is going on right now is more significant than similar events in times previous. In the here and now it is. History is history and what happens today impacts us now and in the future. That being said, recency bias generally distorts our sense of reality. For example, you’ll occasionally hear people say that politics today is worse than it’s ever been. A little historical insight illustrates that we’re nowhere close to being in the worst political environment our country has seen.
Going back before the Civil War and you’ll find that there were literal fights inside the halls of Congress and then there’s the Civil War. We’ve literally fought a war against each other. Clearly, it’s been worse. If you think that the political climate is worse now than in the 2016 cycle, you’re onto something. Partisan angst is already worse than it was in 2016 and we’re not even into 2020 yet.
According to the Pew Research Center, only 26% of Democrats and Republicans feel that they can even agree on basic facts. When that’s the starting point for the conversation, you know we’re going to have significant issues with one another. And what do those issues look like?
On one hand, Democrats feel that Republicans are 75% closed-minded, 47% immoral, 38% unintelligent, 23% unpatriotic and 20% lazy. On the other hand, Republicans feel that Democrats are 64% closed-minded, 63% unpatriotic, 55% immoral, 46% lazy and 36% unintelligent.
Other than that, we tend to think that there’s a lot that’s redeeming about those with opposing political views. This study also didn't factor in the impeachment inquiry. I’m guessing that wouldn’t help the situation. The point is this. Politics is nasty. It’s been nasty but still, no matter how bad it gets between now and November of next year, it’s been much, much worse.
On a positive note, if we could make our way back from a civil war to be civil with one another. There’s a good chance that the era of bitter divides may too pass one day. Perspective, pass it on.
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