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.