Surely We Are Better Than This, Aren’t We?

In January 2019, two political scientists, Dr. Nathan Kilmae from LSU and Dr. Lilliana Mason of the Univ. of Maryland, published a study they had done on attitudes toward politics in the US, highlighted by attitudes that people have toward those that have different political views than they have themselves. The responses were disturbing and maybe even more so a year and a half later.

The survey found that, among both Democrats and Republicans, that just over 42% believe that members of the other party are not just wrong or have different viewpoints but are “downright evil”. That is the language from the survey: “downright evil”.

Kilmae and Mason’s survey probed into these attitudes in depth. They asked such things as if respondents thought their political opposites “lack the traits to be considered fully human” and even went so far as to ask “Do you ever think ‘we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public just died?’”
Can you imagine even thinking there is a reason to ask such a question?! Yet, shockingly, 20% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans said that we would be better off if large numbers of the opposing party just stopped breathing.

The survey pressed yet a little farther and asked “What if the opposing party wins the 2020 presidential election. How much do you feel violence would be justified then?” A mind-boggling and shocking 18.3% of Democrats and 13.8% of Republicans thought some violence would be justified (ranging in the survey from ‘a little’ to ‘a lot’). With the events of late, I can’t imagine that number being any less today than in was when the survey was taken.

I don’t know if I can remember being more shocked. Or disappointed in my country. Over a tenth and almost up to a fifth of us reject democratic elections and believe we should violently take to the streets if we don’t get our way. Surely, that can’t be and we are a better people than this.

Seemingly gone are the days when President Reagan would invite liberal Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill to the White House after hours, just to socialize. Or the days when liberal Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski worked on a compromise he could live with and then passed Reagan’s tax cuts. Apparently lost is conservative icon William F. Buckley’s idea of ‘transideological friendship’. Buckley, the father of modern conservatism and founder of the National Review was well known for his friendships with people he argued strongly with when it came to politics, people such as liberal icon and economist John Kenneth Gailbrath and others.

We need those days back, desperately. Politics and the direction of our country are important but not the most important thing in life.

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