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Politicians are always pledging to work across the aisle, but it never happens. Voters decry the inability of politicians to act in a bipartisan manner, but their frustration is fruitless. And political commentators wonder why liberals and conservatives can’t compromise, and why Democrats and Republicans can’t work together for the good of the country?

The question indicates a surprising ignorance of the current state of American politics and a lack of honesty about how political partisans view each other.

For the most part, conservatives believe that the current economic woes of the nation are almost solely caused by liberal policies. So the conservative solution is to roll back these policies. The solution to the stagnant economy is to gut environmental and work place safety regulations that burden business, and eliminate social welfare programs that are a disincentive to work. The solution to our current economic woes, according to conservatives, is to repeal virtually every liberal program since the New Deal.

Many conservative also believe that liberal policies have largely destroyed America. And a significant number believe that liberals have enacted these harmful policies because they are depraved. They believe liberals are evil. Sean Hannity wrote a book a few years ago called “Deliver us from Evil.” The evil he spoke of was liberalism.  

In general, liberals believe that our current economic woes are almost solely caused by conservative economic policies. Banks crashed and brought down the world economy because of banking deregulation of the 1990’s. The growing disparity between the rich and the poor is the by-product of massive tax cuts to the wealthy and gutting of the social safety net. They listen to conservatives call Obama a tyrant in one breath and a dithering incompetent in the next, or call him both a Nazi and a communist, and they can’t help but believe that conservatives are crazy. They see conservatives deny basic scientific facts, like evolution and global warming, and they are convinced that most conservatives are morons.  

The cause of the lack of compromise isn’t that Democrats and Republicans have different ideas about how to solve pressing national issues. Common ground can be found in competing policy proposals. And it is not just that liberals and conservative want very different things. Even ideas that are 180 degrees apart on the political spectrum are still on the same line, and there is some middle ground on that line. No, the problem is that each side is convinced that the other is nefarious, has evil motives, and is purposefully acting to harm the nation.

The problem is that far too many conservatives believe that liberals are evil. And how can you compromise with an evil? The plain answer is that you can’t. Liberals, for their part, have become convinced that conservatives are either crazy or completely stupid. How do you reason with a moron? How do you find middle ground with a crazy person? Again the answer is that you can’t.          

This mutual antipathy is a barrier to bipartisanship. Our inability to understand the hostility and our unwillingness to talk about it only makes that barrier harder to surmount.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  The political polarization we now have... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, oldcrow the greatest since the Civil War.  The Tea Party/GOP base clearly consists of racists, theocrats and libertarians, all manipulated by plutocrats and warmongers.  

    The Democratic side is slowly evolving (slowly), but the other guys have moved so far to the right that they are unrecognizable.  I know, I used to be one of them until 2002 when I opened the hood on the party and discovered the neo-cons.  The more I looked and the more it moved to the right the more disgusted I've become.

    Compromising with these people is not in the cards.  And IMO it will get even more polarized specially after Citizens United and Hobby Lobby.

    We are in a civil war short of military battles.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 07:55:22 PM PDT

  •  Really? Both sides do it? Srsly? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, Gooserock, oldcrow, avsp

    I don't remember the Democrats ever meeting in a restaurant or anywhere else on the evening of the inauguration of a Republican President to plan exactly how they were going to obstruct every piece of legislation the President would propose.

    I don't remember any Democratic Senator telling the press that his main job was to make sure that a Republican President was not re-elected.  

    The only barrier to bipartisanship is that there is only one party that wants it.

    Oh oh, I hope THAT doesn't end up in someone's sig line! :) - kos

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:01:41 PM PDT

    •  I Don't Believe the Diarist Remembers Anything (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29

      about conservative organizing and policy positions since the days of doo-wop.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:08:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mike - I have a book recommendation for you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pi Li, Mike Coblenz

    The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. He has put some serious science around your thesis. I saw Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at NYU, interviewed by Bill Moyers one evening and purchased the book the next day. It's a great book for a political junkie, but the core is the point of your diary. Both the right and left have moved from viewing each other as people with opposing views to a feeling that the other side is truly evil. That transformation makes moving forward in any bipartisan manner very difficult.

    One of the most interesting chapters is the experiments Haidt did with groups of liberals, conservatives and independents. He gave each group sets of circumstances and asked them how they would respond and to answer how they thought the other two groups would also respond. All the groups were quite accurate except one. Liberals really had no idea how conservatives actually responded.  

    "let's talk about that" uid 92953

    by VClib on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:23:12 PM PDT

    •  I know this book (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And it's informed a lot of my commentary here.  The stereotyping people here engage in about the right (as their counterparts do on the right about left) would be hilarious if they weren't ultimately so destructive to the US democracy.

      Everyone thinks the absolute worst of the other side...not only regarding their motivations, but as who they are as people. So in our dialogue conservatives hate women and want to subjugate them in some medieval way, and liberals want to impose a communist state on the free people's of the west.

      It's gotten so bad I really can't see any way out. Each side will only settle for complete victory over the other side...because they regard the other side as evil and unacceptable.  I'm not sure where any country goes from there, except to a very, very dark place.

      Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

      by Pi Li on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:49:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It really is a great book! (0+ / 0-)

        "let's talk about that" uid 92953

        by VClib on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 09:17:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Maximal mutual antipathy (0+ / 0-)

        I suspect there is a reason why presidential elections hover so close to 50-50.  Each side's propaganda is so well honed, yet no better than the other in garnering votes, and in fact, just about exactly as good.  

        People do not just happen to divide in their belief systems into two nearly exactly equal parts.  There is a game afoot, and unfortunately, it doesn't favor reason, but the ability to garner  people's beliefs without sufficient questioning.

    •  Thanks VClib (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'll check it out.

  •  There may be some reluctance on the left (0+ / 0-)

    to accept cruel and or crazy proposals seriously, but the right has left the building, in real terms, they simply don't believe anything but the noise machine lies, even men and women who are intelligent enough to know better have to keep drinking the tea party kool aid, if they want to keep their jobs. Their key principles are blind self interest and greed. There may not be any outstanding 'statesmen' on the left, but there are less than none on the right.

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 08:43:38 PM PDT

  •  Some of these comments ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    some of these comments seem to prove my point. Some of the commentators seem convinced that all conservatives are nefarious. Many certainly are, and they are a controlling majority of the Republican Party, but I don't know what good it does to respond in kind.

    I agree that partisanship is probably as bad as it was leading up to the Civil War. And in my opinion its about 85% the fault of conservatives who, aided by talk radio and Fox News, have moved their party so far to the right that they have lost contact with reality.

    But the bigger question is how you deal with that. While it may be fun, responding in kind only seems to make matters worse.

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