How did we get to the point where Americans fear members of the other party?

I’d sure like to wear a T-shirt with Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s picture on it, or put a bumper sticker on our car espousing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but I’m afraid a member of the “party of law and order” would shoot me in the head or key my mother’s brand-new car.

How the hell did we ever get to this point?

IMHO, it’s because politics became perceived as a zero-sum game: One side’s gain must be another side’s loss. Politics is now seen as “let’s impose an outcome on the other side that we know the other side finds unacceptable.”

It doesn’t have to be, of course. But that’s how it’s perceived now. “Politics is peaceful war and war is violent politics.” Or the saying “ballots, not bullets” - which originally was meant to be, let’s settle things peacefully instead of violently, but now I think has taken on overtones of “ballots are the peaceful equivalent of bullets - a way to hurt the other side where it hurts.”

It’s also hard to overcome voter apathy with policy prescriptions, PowerPoint presentations, and long speeches about wonky quantitative analyses that come from some of the think tanks.

Paint the other team as an existential threat to something … anything … everything that you hold dear, and you’ll get a lot more campaign checks written and a lot more voters at the polls (well … that part’s being contested, too, but I digress).

Right wing radio and television. They’ve spent the past 25-30 years convincing a solid chunk of our populous that not only do Democrats think different than they do, but that Democrats are dangerous to America. That makes Democrats an actual enemy, not just another political party.

Roosevelt and the New Deal.
Republicans never got over Nixon losing to Kennedy or Nixon’s almost impeachment.
This goes back farther that most of us have been alive.

It also has to do with the media highlighting the worst that a side has to offer.

By showing footage of Antifa beating people up, or the Charlottesville white-supremacist rally, or the Jan-6 insurrection, or buildings aflame in Minnesota, the media is tapping people’s fear instinct and making them think “Yep that IS what the other side wants to do to us. Time to make a trip to the gun store.”

I think this is the biggest part of the explanation (though there are many more factors). I think Rush Limbaugh bears more blame than any other single person.

I wore my “Food Tastes Better With DNA” t-shirt at Whole Foods, and not only was I not assaulted by venom-spewing anti-GMOers, no one even seemed to notice.

Maybe it was too subtle…

I see vehicles plastered with politically provocative stickers (from the Left and Right) all the time and there are no bullet holes in them or other obvious signs of mayhem, so perhaps a lot of that “fear” is misplaced.

It is the rise of social media, the internet, and news programs dedicated to one side of things. A person can get all of their news through a partisan filter and never have to understand the other side. The other side is simply presented as evil, bigoted, etc. Nobody even hears the other side to allow the healthy give and take of a debate where at the end, even if you remain unconvinced, you see that the other person isn’t an evil monster, that he or she just has a different life experience and views things from a different angle than you.

Today, people never see that other person, but a caricature.

Yes, this.

Profit lies in keeping people tuned into your radio or television show. Why should they stay tuned in if there is a story about two parties filled with people of good will who simply disagree?

But if your story–today and every day–is a story of GOOD versus EVIL, of vast conspiracies of malevolent forces determined to destroy the listener/viewer, of a life-or-death struggle between the Righteous and the Demonic—then you will have plenty of dedicated listeners or viewers…

… and the ad revenues will POUR in.

I think @Sherrerd is mostly correct, but not for exactly the reasons mentioned. It’s even simpler. The world is a complicated place, and for many people in the US, especially older, white people (not exclusive to them, but it’s a big part of the current Trumplican base) it isn’t a world they recognize. They expected a future that was like the past, with a certain degree of unthinking deference due to their race and class, where things worked the way they expected.

It wasn’t ever that simple, and it definitely isn’t now. So they are confused, and probably scared, and someone - Trump/Limbaugh/etc - says “Oh, it isn’t complicated, those OTHERS have all worked against you, follow me and we’ll make it all simple and good again.”

That’s the poisonous and brilliant power of the MAGA theme. Make American (a version of American that only existed in black and white TV) Great (if you were part of the class with unspoken advantages) Again (not that it was if you were a recent immigrant, of color, or different in your social or sexual outlook). This is, to borrow a not random metaphor, a return to Eden.

You get all the power of the previously mentioned Good vs. Evil, but back it up with the comforting simplicity of not having to try to understand or take responsibility for any of the issues that we have increasing needs to address.

And for the conservatives on the board that are not Trumplicans, it’s not like the Democratic Party isn’t full of other simplifications. I do love Bernie Bros that say we can do everything all for free (?) by just raising taxes on all corporations/Wall Street/Rich Guys without discussing how that is going to raise costs to everyone down the line (not that we don’t need to reset corporate taxes to pre-2017 levels, but his estimates were wildly optomistic).

Humans love to see ‘the man with the plan’ and probably have since Chief Loves-to-Loaf in most ancient times promised that life would be better if they gave him extra food so he could make all the complicated decisions while everyone else got on with the hunt, and his brother Shaman Smokes-good-Weed promised that everything would be better in the Food and Women filled afterlife if he interceded with you with the spirits that only he could talk too and negotiate with, all for the low low cost of a share of your gathered food.

I’ve wondered if it’s because we don’t have a good Common Enemy right now, like we have at some other times in our history (e.g. WWII, the Cold War era, post-9/11), so we have to take our tribalism out on each other.

It’s been ramping up for a few decades and reached an ugly peak during the Trump years. It is dissipating now, albeit slowly. It needs to keep descending to where we can disagree civilly.

Is it dissipating, though? Like many, I thought the election of Barrack Obama was sign that the US was on the right path to reconciling their history of racism, but of course that turned out to be utterly wrong. Racism found a new resurgence in volume and vitriol, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that resurgence is waning now. Biden may have won the last election, but Trump got even more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. Millions of new voters looked at what Trump was doing, and voted in favor of more of that.

And I can’t see those people just fading away any time soon.

Must be too subtle for me. Doesn’t all food have some plant and/or animal ingredients, and therefore DNA? Even Little Debbie’s snacks have some naturally occurring fats and sugars. Why would your shirt antagonize anti-GMOers?

"Many critics think of the DNA in GMO-based foods as if it’s toxic, a bad thing, says Alison Van Eenennaam, PhD, cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis. As unappetizing as it may sound, “DNA has always been part of our diet, and it’s digested in your stomach along with the rest of your food,” she says. “There is not some evil trace of poison.”

“Even though it’s never happened before, some people fear that you could become genetically modified from eating GMO food. But genetic material doesn’t get tacked on like pin the tail on the donkey. An “added” gene isn’t going to fall off and get stuck to yours.”

“Bacteria-fighting enzymes and processes in your body are designed to prevent a genetic invasion.”

There was a poll a few years back that found that 80% of Americans supported mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA.

Ignorance and fearmongering are a toxic combination.

Especially if they also contain dihydrogen oxide, amirite?

Thanks for the laugh, and apologies to the rest of the thread for the hijack.

I think the Democratic party’s biggest problem is that they’re trying to be everything to everyone under their coalition, instead of having a clearly defined and concise platform, and most importantly, making sure everyone is singing from THAT hymnal, even if that means not being all-inclusive in every possible way.

You can’t have AOC spouting one thing, Biden another, and Bernie Sanders a third. They ALL need to be saying the same thing. It looks like disorganization and weakness when they don’t, and it also greatly muddles the party messaging and confuses people as to what the party actually stands for.

I happened upon this article about the late Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg:

It concludes:

Weinberg saw science and religion as having nothing constructive to say to one another … As he told an audience in 1999: “One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious."

To the evangelicals who make up a big chunk of the GOP base, this probably sounds like “Religious people are stupid.” No one likes being called stupid, so they now reject science (and those who support science) as anti-God. And if we’re anti-God, we must be pro-Satan – and must be obliterated.

Guess what? You are stupid.

I once had a plastic Darwin Fish sticker on my rear bumper, and someone ripped it off. I’ll need convincing that it wasn’t some offended creationist.