The US is different: The D vs R divide

I’m Australian. I reckon I know which side one of my sisters votes on the left/right divide. That’s probably because she told me many years ago. For the rest of my family, I wouldn’t have a clue…nor do I care really. Their political views are theirs to hold. We often talk politics, but we don’t talk PARTY politics. It’s issues not the party.

I have no idea what the political persuasions are of those in the High Court (Aus version of the SCOTUS to deal with constitutional questions). They’re not voted in here, they are given a seat on the HC by previous experience in the various lower courts. I don’t know whether they are left, right, or somewhere else on the political spectrum. I don’t care because I trust them to arbitrate fairly on issues that are presented. Party politics doesn’t come in to it.

We here don’t register with a political party to vote. We might be a member of a political party if we so choose, but that information is not given to our Electoral Commission. It’s private information. When I rock up to vote, the person crossing off my name doesn’t know whether I vote left, right, middle or SEX PARTY. It’s none of their business and even when my vote is counted, it’s anonymous.

After umpteen years here on the SDMB, I still don’t quite get the divisive line between the D’s and the R’s. Is it really such a thing? Do you folk pick friends, business acquaintances, partners by their (official) political leanings? Is that really a thing?

Most people don’t care. We barely get a majority of people to vote at all.

Same in the US - unless you want to vote in the primary elections (where each party picks it’s candidate for the general election) but I’m sure it’s more complicated than that - I don’t/never have voted in a primary.

Fifty years ago, the Republican party in the US was staid, conformist, boring, and respectable. The Democrats were young, bright, and restless, looking for change. Nobody thought the other party was evil incarnate, any more than you thought your reckless teenager or your opinionated old uncle was evil incarnate.

Over time, things shifted. Now, the Republican party has become the place where the ugliest kind of willful ignorance, misogyny, racism, and the glorification of endless greed find their home, and everyone else was driven out. The Democrats and Independents are where both the progressive and the respectable live, in an uneasy mixture. Why this happened has to do with the intractable racism and the ever- increasing income inequality which are such a deep part of the social character here.

What you are seeing now is not how it used to be. Not at all.

I can second this.

I’ve lived in the north and the south. I’ve lived in big metro areas and rural.

Most don’t care.

Most of those who do care, just repeat the popular propaganda headlines of the day, proving they don’t understand media or politics.

I think the difference is probably Primaries. Since we don’t have them, there’s not so much pressure to capital-I-Identify with a particular party, and changing your vote is much easier.

(Also, of course, preferential voting, which reduces amount of calculation needed to ‘make sure your vote counts’)

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I can still spot a blue-tie Liberal, rusted-on Labor or hipster Greenie at twenty paces nine times out of ten

I think it’s not even truly a thing, in that someone who’s a D in California may be an R in Texas. Since there are two and only two parties and the whole political system is based on them, people will grab one label or the other depending not so much on the ideology of the party (there isn’t that much on one) but either as a way to differentiate themselves from their opponents (in “purple” locations) or to hitch themselves to the horse that’s more likely to get them elected (in “red” or “blue” places). But then those labels, each of which actually covers a huge spectrum, and with spectra that overlap, are treated as if they actually referred to two completely different thing. It may be in part because thinking “D” or “R” is so much simpler than thinking “pro-life pro-abortion pro-women-in-the-military person who owns guns and would like to see heavier gun regulations.” Is that a D, an R, an independent, or does it depend on where they live and whether they’re trying to get elected or not?

I mean, the whole thing where the primaries of the parties are treated as part of the electoral process and use government resources still has me confused. Is there any other party, anywhere else, that does that? In countries with more than one party, preferably?

Taiwan is deeply divided between those who support getting closer to China and those who are opposed to that.

It can get as bad as the States. My wife has friends with people on the other side, and they have agreed to not discuss politics.

Fifty years ago, my father was ranting at dinner table about the evils of the Democrats.

I think that the nation has caught up with a sizable minority has always felt.

The Southern Strategy

The difference is that you have political disagreements in Australia. We here in the US don’t any more. The divide in the US isn’t about politics; it’s about tribalism.

The political divide happening now is just the same cultural divide that blew up American politics in the 1960s.

On the one hand you have a group that is trying to achieve justice, equality, prosperity and good government for everyone. And on the other hand you have people with various kinds of privilege holding on to that privilege by any means necessary.

The thing that’s new is that the two groups have been sorted into the party system. That wasn’t true on the 1960s when there were segregationist Democrats and liberal Republicans and vice versa.

There’s certainly always been a degree of tribalism in Uk politics, and “tribes within tribes” (e.g., Labour=unions plus middle-class socialists and progressives, not always seeing eye to eye on foreign policy and social/identity issues; Conservatives = landed/establishment interests+business+finance, not always seeing eye to eye on the same sort of social/identity issues, or on the welfare state). The question is how moderated the expression of these divides can be in debate, and how there might be some accommodation between them: in the run-up to both world wars, this was difficult and the political atmosphere tense and divided almost to breaking point, as a result of different issues, but in the period since WW2, much less so.

Now we have Brexit cutting across those divides as well; once again, there’s a gulf of mutual incomprehension and contempt, made worse by being seized upon by a revival of relatively extreme points of view. I’m beginning to understand how bewildered my father must have been by the 1960s’ shifts in what could be taken for granted as common ground.

Heck, the division between PSOE and PP (and Ciudadanos) in Spain is tribal. PSOE used to be Socialist but Felipe González moved them towards Social Democracy, which is exactly where the other two fall; the general ideology, the general view of what the country should be like, is the same, but there are differences relating to which social sectors and which geographical regions they’re strongest in. So, yeah, tribalism. And I’m not even including the slew of Social Democrat Regionalist parties, we don’t have one per region but we do have a bunch of them.

I do wonder if the “problem” or rather reason it appears so is that Dopers are merely much more pinterested in politcis than the average population.

On this forum we have recently had the Kavanaugh mess yes. And ever lasting Trump threads. But we have had multiple thread on UK politics on issues like Brexit, Scottish Referendum, the General Elections, and many contrubutors were not even been British. We have had long threads on Canadian, Australian and Saffer politics. About Indian SC cases and Greek and Irish referenda.
This time last year we were getting hot and bothered about Catalonia and Spain.

It depends on the individual, but in general… Yes. There are very deep cultural and religious divisions in the US that politicians have exploited to the point where we are extremely divided. Some of these date back centuries.

The US has always been at least somewhat divided. Different parts of the country were settled by different groups of European immigrants, so you ended up with some big cultural differences. Layered on top of that was the division between the slave-owning states and the non-slave-owning states. This was a huge problem that was baked into America from the very beginning, and it has taken several rounds of violence to get us to the point we are at now.

After the American Civil War 1861-1865, the Democratic party emerged as a pro-South, anti-abolition party. For a lot of the Southerners who were pissed off about losing the war, the Democrats were able to conflate political alignment with one’s racial, cultural, and geographic preferences. Voting for the other party wasn’t just a political decision. It was treason against your Southern heritage and your race. Things changed in the 1960’s, when the Democratic position evolved into SUPPORTING equal rights. This left a bunch of Southern racists feeling pissed off, and the Republican party snatched them up.

I don’t doubt that it is really hard to understand the degree of racial and cultural division that exists in the US. There are places where people still fly the Confederate (Rebel) flag. Depending on the individual, it may mean anything from “I’m proud of the South,” to “I hate niggers.” The South was a deeply, violently racist place until the 1960’s. Now it’s not so much ‘violent’ but there are still many racists left over and a huge cultural, political, and religious divide. The big problem now is that Republicans have exploited these divisions over the years to increasingly create an “Us-vs-Them” narrative. It started off being a battle over racism, but it’s grown into a hodge-podge of policy positions.

I’ll give you some examples:

(A) Some religions are deeply anti-abortion, so the Republicans decided to affiliate themselves with religious ideas and anti-abortion sentiment. For these people, the question of voting D or R is literally a matter of good-vs-evil. They might oppose health care laws - for example - because they’ve been told they will go to hell if they give someone a contraceptive. It’s incredibly fucked up.

(B) Gun rights are a huge issue in the US. Americans have been raised on a wild-west culture that identifies guns with independence, freedom, and masculinity. There is a huge group of people whose entire ego and morality is based on identifying themselves as ‘gun owners.’ It’s like a religion. These people believe that gun ownership is synonymous with freedom, and gun limitations is synonymous with tyranny. So again, to vote in favor of gun restrictions is like saying you hate America’s freedom. It’s literally evil.

Things have gotten so bad in America that there is a huge industry devoted to pushing this narrative. It kind of started with radio and branched into books, newspaper columns, Youtube, etc. These people pursue the narrative that Liberalism = EVIL and Liberal policies will lead to the collapse of America, Christendom, and Western Civilization as a whole. They publish books with titles like “Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.” I mean, seriously, how are you supposed to deal with someone who is taught that your political position equates to literal treason. One of their talking points is that other sources of information are dishonest and biased against them, so the people who consume this media think that any alternative discussion is “liberal propaganda.” It shuts down rational thought and shuts down their ability to discuss problems. We have seen a series of politicans (not just Trump, but also people like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann) who actively attack education and educated institutions, trying to appeal to uneducated morons and prevent them from gathering evidence or thinking critically about their positions. Republicanism has become increasingly toxic, dominated by conspiracy theories and religious impulses, and driven by racism and anti-intellectual sentiment.

Sort of. Sometimes. It depends on the individual, again. Most Americans can get through their life without discussing politics and have no problem. I couldn’t tell you the political positions of my co-workers, for example, because we don’t talk about it. But there are two big problems that I see:

(A) Some people are really fixated with the problem of ‘Us-vs-Them’ and ‘Good-vs-Evil.’ I’ve met some really aggressive Republicans who are very hateful and bitter. There are people who will become violently angry about the ‘evil’ liberals who ‘hate America.’ It’s a problem that has gotten worse since the invention of the internet. Republican politics right now is struggling to control the monster they have created. Republicans have spend decades pushing this extreme moral division, but now they’ve hit a point where the lunatics are running the asylum. If a Republican candidate is moderate, he will get voted out and replaced by a candidate who is more extreme.

(B) Trump basically annihilated whatever barriers remained surrounding civil discourse in America. Not only did he give people tacit permission to be publically hateful, but he’s obliterated the concept of truth and objective fact. Republican voters overwhelmingly approve of Trump and - inexplicably - they continue to support his decisions in spite of factual evidence and expert opinion. This is still a little bit of a cultural thing. I’ll admit I find it virtually incomprehensible, but Trump appealed to the basest impulses of racism, anti-intellectualism, and divisive morality.

I’ve cut off friends and family who support Trump, because it is impossible to speak to them in a rational manner. They have abandoned their own moral positions and excused or rationalized Trump’s immorality. If I cite a fact, they accuse me of being a liar, or being brainwashed. If I point out an inconsistency in Trump’s own statements, they become enraged. And I’ll admit the same is true of me. When they refuse to acknowledge the facts in front of their face, or they offer me information that has already been proven false, I become furious.

If someone lies to you, tells you that you are evil and brainwashed, and supports a moral system that you find repulsive… Why would you want to talk to that person?

In their minds, Trump’s cult of personality has become part of their identity, so if I present evidence that Trump is bad, or Trump’s policies are bad, that is the same as saying they - the Trump voters - are evil people. Because those are the terms in which they see the world. Politics have become intertwined with culture, geography, religion, education, and race in a very toxic way.

The political divide in the U.S. is an urban-rural divide. That’s the biggest factor to determining whether you’re on the left or right. If you are from a rural area or your personality is deeply rooted in rural culture, then it’s very likely you’re on the right. The political system has from the very beginning given rural people disproportionate power in the country, and they’re fighting to keep it.

Very much so. The division is real, stark and in my opinion, unfixable. It’s important to remember that Australia has a parliamentary system that better allows for a spectrum of political positions, but the US is a two party system. Also, with gerrymandering, in the US politicians choose their voters, while in most democracies, voters choose their politicians.

In my opinion, it became unfixable after the Florida recount and the Iraq war. That is when it became clear that American politics had become a zero sum game in which the loser was completely shut out. Florida was bad enough, but once Bush used the 9/11 attacks to justify the invasion of Iraq, it became clear that compromise was no longer possible.

We also live in clusters of like minded folks and are sorting ourselves along political lines and only 45% of Americans said they did not care what was the political affiliation of their child’s spouse.
Couple of articles on it:


True enough, I would not look to the boards Americans as representative of the society as a whole. Hell I’m not sure any group could be, there are just so many subcultures.

The Balkanization is very real.

The fact is we choose neighborhoods, careers and friends without realizing we are sorting ourselves out by political alignment. I wouldn’t be friends with someone who was opposed to gay marriage or supported Trump’s Muslim ban and I wouldn’t choose to live in a neighborhood surrounded by such people.

Indeed, the intertwining of socio-economics, politics and religion.
Which establishes dogma, to which the adherents are right and worthy and the others who are not.

There have been enough examples of that, vividly in living memory, to not want to go down that bloody path again.