Scholar Lilliana Mason: “I’m worried about violent conflict between Democrats and Republicans”

From Salon:  https://www.salon.com/2018/08/20/scholar-lilliana-mason-im-worried-about-violent-conflict-between-democrats-and-republicans/

Author of “Uncivil Agreement” on how politics has descended into a brutal team sport focused solely on winning

Chauncey DeVega
August 20, 2018

President Abraham Lincoln famously warned that “a house divided against itself, cannot stand.” More than 150 years later his alarm still resonates: While the conflagration will most likely take a different form than it did in Lincoln’s day, America in the era of President Donald Trump is increasingly a country of warring tribes rather than a united people possessed of a shared sense of identity and destiny.

Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, do not live in the same communities. They do not consume the same news media. They are divided by race, gender, religion and ethnicity. Republicans and conservatives have even tried to create their own alternate universe, a world free of facts not governed by empirical reality where right-wing ideology is a religion or cult that supersedes all other things.

The president of the United States is not a unifier who seeks to lead all people and by doing so to inspire the best of who and what America and the American people can be. Instead he is hell-bent on creating chaos and division. For his voters and other Republicans and conservatives, he is a champion and political godhead. For Democrats, liberals and other people of conscience he is closer to being a monster.

How did America become so divided? Why has political polarization become so extreme? In what ways have political parties become like sports teams where winning is all that matters and the common good is unimportant? Can American democracy to survive Donald Trump amid the rise of a conservative movement that views Democrats and liberals as an “un-American” enemy?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Lilliana Mason. She is a assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the author of the new book “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.”

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Lilliana Mason. She is a assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the author of the new book “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.”

How do you explain the election of Donald Trump and the current state of American politics?

Our party identities have been moving into alignment with other social identities. As a result race, religion, culture, geography and to some extent gender and other identities align with political parties. This means we become much more focused on the party winning. For Republicans this means white and Christian, rural and male. What Trump did was to activate a particular type of white identity. Then he made it clear to the Republican electorate that they should be paying attention to their white identities and voting based on it. Trump was also telling these voters what they had in their heads already.

He really pointed to a group of people who were feeling vulnerable and condescended to and made fun of and said, “You guys are losers, right? We’re all losers, we are losing all the time.” Then he said, “But I’m going to make you winners, I’m going to make us win again.” So it was this almost perfect message delivered to a group of people who were ready to hear a message like that, and were committed to defeating the Democrats because the other party is so socially “other” from them. Ultimately, Donald Trump tapped into a dynamic that has been developing over the last few decades in America.

America has a long history of extreme political polarization and partisanship. We actually fought a civil war that killed 750,000 people. Those fault lines of race still exist. Part of me feels like there is nothing really new about Trump and what he represents. In fact, America has only been a democracy on paper for about the last 50 years. Then again, Trump and his supporters’ unabashed contempt for democracy and overt racism and bigotry does feel new in the recent history of American politics. How do you reconcile those tensions?

This is not a completely new way of approaching politics, at least in the Republican Party — consider the racist Southern Strategy [of the 1968 election and thereafter]. But there are now such strong partisans that will do almost anything just for their political team to win. As I said earlier, this is partly because when our party “wins,” our racial group and our religious group and our other cultural and social identities “win” too. The victory of our political party is taking up more and more of what I describe as “self-esteem real estate.” Every part of us is involved now in the outcome of the election. So when our party loses, it hurts a lot more than it did before, because we used to have other meaningful identities.

Continue reading at:  https://www.salon.com/2018/08/20/scholar-lilliana-mason-im-worried-about-violent-conflict-between-democrats-and-republicans/

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Scholar Lilliana Mason: “I’m worried about violent conflict between Democrats and Republicans”
%d bloggers like this: