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New York Times

Why political sectarianism is a growing threat to American democracy

Democracy in the United States faces many challenges: new restrictions on voting rights. Corrosion of false information. The rise of domestic terrorism. Foreign interference in elections. Efforts to overturn the change of power. And it is the fundamental truth to make things worse with all these problems. The two parties see the other as an enemy. It is expected to make compromise impossible and encourage elected officials to violate norms in pursuit of agenda or election victory. It changes the debate about turning voting law into an existential confrontation. And it discourages losers from accepting defeat-an essential requirement of democracy. Signing up for the morning newsletter from the New York Times This threat to democracy has the name sectarianism. This is not a term commonly used in discussions of American politics. It is better known in the context of religious sectarianism, like hostility between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. However, more and more prominent political scientists claim that political sectarianism is rising in the United States. The controversy has been in recent American politics, including the success of Donald Trump’s presidential election and the distressed efforts to align the call for “unification” of President Joe Biden’s inauguration with his party’s legislative agenda. It helps to understand many things that are happening. Congressman Far Right plans to create a parliamentary group that promotes some views related to white supremacy. Best of all, it refocuses the threat to American democracy on the dangers of hostile and divided citizens. In recent years, many analysts and commentators are now familiar with how democracy dies in the hands of authoritarianism. Her own rules. It’s the story of Putin’s Russia, Chavez’s Venezuela, and Hitler’s Germany. Next, sectarianism tells a very different series of warning stories, including Ireland, the Middle East, South Asia, areas where religious sectarianism led to dysfunctional governments, violence, rebellion, civil war, and even divisions and divisions. Immediately wake up. These are not necessarily authoritarian takeovers, but sectarianism can also produce results. Often, it’s a story of a minority who can’t accept being ruled by the enemy. In many respects, it’s a story unfolding in America today. Sectarianism, whether religious or political, is about two hostile identity groups that not only clash over policy and ideology, but also consider the other side to be alien and immoral. It is the hostile feelings between the groups that cause the conflict between the denominations, rather than the differences in ideas. Anyone who casually observes American politics will agree that there is a lot of hostility between Democrats and Republicans. Many people hate each other, not just oppose them. They have a discriminatory attitude in employment, as in the implicit association test. They tell pollsters that their children would not want to marry an opposition party. In a treatise published in Science in October by 16 prominent political scientists, the author argues that, in a sense, hatred between the two parties “exceeds long-standing opposition to race and religion.” ing. According to a CBS News poll conducted in January, more than half of Republicans and more than 40% of Democrats tend to think of their opponents as “enemy” rather than “political enemy.” The majority of Americans said other Americans were the greatest threat to the United States. At one level, partisan hostility merely reflects the lasting differences between the two parties over policy issues. Over the last two decades, they have fought fierce battles over the Iraq War, gun rights, medical care, taxes and more. Perhaps hard emotions are not necessarily of a sectarian nature. However, both parties were not only more ideologically polarized, but also categorized simultaneously along race, religion, education, generation, and geographic lines. Partisanship has become a “megaidentity” in the words of political scientist Liliana Mason. This represents both a policy division and a broader clash between the white Christian Conservative Party and the liberal, multi-ethnic secular elite. And as popular sectarianism grows in the United States, some of the loudest party voices on Congress, Fox News, Twitter, MSNBC, and other platforms are devoted to cultural wars and inflammatory sectarianism, and others. .. The conservative anger over Dr. Seuss’s cancellation is a marker that the conflict between the groups has replaced the old-fashioned policy debate. The politics of cultural wars was synonymous with the conflict over “social issues” in which the government played a central role, such as abortion and gun policy. The Dr. Seuss controversy had no policy implications. At stake was the security of one sect and was considered to be under attack by the other sect. It’s a problem that evokes passion in the sectarian era. A March Consult / Politico poll found that Republicans heard more about Dr. Seuss’s problems than they heard about the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package. Ten years ago, a much smaller stimulus package helped start the Tea Party movement. The Dr. Seuss episode is not the only example of Republicans not emphasizing policy goals in support of sectarianism. Last month, Republican Senator Marco Rubio wrote an editorial in support of unionization in the Amazon in retaliation for Seattle’s corporate cultural liberalism. At the 2020 National Convention, the Republicans did not even update their platform. And perhaps most importantly, in 2016, the Republicans chose to abandon laissez-faire economics and neoconservative foreign policy and accept sectarianism in one package at a time. It’s playing cards. That year’s Republican primary was a referendum on whether it was easy to appeal to conservatives with conservative policies or to arouse hostility between denominations. Sectarianism won. Sectarianism was very strong among Republicans, partly because they believed there was a risk of being left to minority status. The party has lost popularity votes in seven of the last eight presidential elections, and conservatives are afraid that demographic changes will further undermine their support. And while defeat is part of the game of democracy, it’s much harder to accept in sectarian societies. It’s not easy to accept that you are dominated by hostile alien rivals. As the author of a study published in Science states, it can “make political losses feel like an existential threat.” As a result, minorities often challenge democracy in sectarian societies. It is the minority who bear the cost of accepting a majority vote in democracy, whether material or psychological. In extreme cases, domination by hostile alien groups may feel no different than being conquered by another country. Democracy in sectarian societies often creates institutional arrangements to protect minorities, such as minority and group rights, power sharing agreements, delegation of authority, and internal affairs. Otherwise, the most marginalized segment of the minority may resort to violence and rebellion in the hope of achieving independence. Of course, Republicans are not entrusted with permanent minority status like typical denominational minorities. Irish did not have a chance to become a majority in Britain. Neither the Muslims of the British Raj nor the Sunnis of Iraq today. In four years, the Democratic Party has gone from minority to majority in all three elected government branches. Republicans can do the same. However, changes in the racial and cultural composition of the country make conservatives feel far more vulnerable than the Republican election competitiveness alone suggests. Demographic projections suggest that non-Hispanic whites will become a minority in the middle of the century. People with a four-year college degree can become a majority of voters even faster. Religiousness is declining. The feeling that the country is changing raises Republican concerns. Recently, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has accepted a conspiracy theory that the Democratic Party is “trying to replace current voters with new voters from the’Third World’.” House’s far-right militants are trying to create an “America First Caucus” that demands “a common respect for the unique Anglo-Saxon political tradition” and “suitable for the descendants of European architecture.” Finding out where American political sectarianism lies is not easy. Fits scales from zero to “The Troubles”. However, almost all protections pursued by sectarian minorities are being considered whether they are supported by some element of American rights. This involves more ominous steps. In December, Rush Limbaugh said that conservatives “tend to leave” because there could be no “peaceful coexistence” between liberals and conservatives. One-third of Republicans, along with one-fifth of Democrats, say they support withdrawal in recent polls. One-third of Americans believe that violence can be justified to achieve political goals. In a January survey, a majority of Republican voters said that “the traditional American lifestyle is rapidly disappearing and we may have to use our power to save it.” I agreed. The January 6 Capitol violence suggests that the risk of persistent political violence and rebellion cannot be ignored. Even with the imminent risk of widespread violence in January, it seems to have passed so far. Instead, Biden swore as president — those who did not attempt to arouse the passion of one sect to the other during his campaign. His nominations and elections show that although sectarianism is on the rise, there may still be limits in the United States. Median voters prefer transpartisanness and escalation of political conflicts, creating incentives to carry out non-denominational campaigns. However, it remains an open question whether President Biden will ease tensions between denominations. Biden is pursuing an ambitious policy agenda, which could eventually refocus the party’s debate on the issue, or move one further away on issues such as immigration and filibuster. Still, the author of the science paper writes that “emphasizing political ideas over political adversaries” is very likely to be a “big step in the right direction.” And Biden himself doesn’t seem to be causing much anger from conservative news media and rank-and-file. Probably because of his welcome message and his 78-year-old Caucasian identity from Scranton, Pennsylvania. But sectarianism is not just about the actions of party leaders, but about the conflict between the two groups. Almost anyone’s actions can exacerbate hostility between the two, even if it is not approved by the leaders of national political parties. Carlson and Marjorie Taylor Greene are just the latest examples. It leaves America at an uncertain time. Biden may ease tensions between denominations compared to Trump, but it is not clear whether intense dissatisfaction and resentment will disappear in the background as many other people act to cause division. Absent. After all, sectarianism can last for decades or even centuries after the first cause of hostility has passed. This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company