A new Pew Research survey finds 86% of Americans describe the country as more politically divided today than in the past, while just 12% say the country is no more divided.” I’m sort of curious who the 12% are.
It’s curious that the country has become so divided when almost every politician preaches the gospel of “national unity.” Barack Obama: “Instead of giving in to cynicism and division, let’s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that define us as a people.” George W. Bush: “We are showing the world the strength of our country, and by our unity and tolerance and compassion.” Donald Trump: “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.” Everybody claims to want unity, instead our divisions harden and deepen.
Since the 1960’s, the autocratic left has sought to politically unify the country by systematically taking over not just political institutions, but also cultural institutions: the entertainment media, journalism, higher and lower education, religion, even sports… (have you watched ESPN lately? It’s turned into a kind of sports-themed MSNBC.) The idea has been to indoctrinate all Americans with common, leftist political philosophy with the aim of creating progressive leftism as the common currency, not just of politics, but of everything.
Why hasn’t the constant whine of leftist progressive indoctrinated united the country as its designers dreamed?
I would suggest that a constant drumbeat of political correctness fails for several reasons. First, there will always be people who disagree; in our case, conservatives and libertarians. The very intolerance of alternative ideas paradoxically enhances the appeal of those ideas. Also, the unquestioned assumptions monocrop political correctness leads to laziness and sloppiness among its adherents which makes it easy for smart dissidents to seize on the weaknesses of leftist arguments. (It is also helpful, in this regard, that socialism invariably fails in practice.) Finally, the adherents of left-wing political thought themselves become smug and intolerable. i.e. The annual exhortations to leftists to get in the faces of ‘your conservative uncle’ at Thanksgiving and Christmas. When people have internalized the dogma that they are right and anyone who disagrees with them is not just wrong, but evil and stupid, they get kind of obnoxious. And the people on the other side are even less likely to listen to them.
Therein lies the paradox, the more you try to force political unity, the more you deepen and harden divisions in the body politics. We would actually be unified in a society that took pains to segregate politics from the culture. There would be less disagreement if it was normative just to keep one’s political opinions to oneself. The absence of a Dominant Political Culture would make it easier for people to talk to each other and listen to each other.