Activism and Apathy Are Poisoning American Politics

(Stock photo via Getty Images.)

Longtime readers will know that I’m somewhat obsessed with the topics of American animosity and partisan polarization. Heck, I wrote an entire book about the potentially mortal dangers of America’s political divisions. And one thing I keep thinking about is the extent to which Americans hate their political opponents, and the extent to which they’re wrong about the people they hate. 

The rage is real. Last month I wrote about the latest survey from my friends at More In Common. They attempted to discern the true extent of American divisions in the so-called “history wars”—the battles over teaching our nation’s history in public schools. I shared this chart from the study. Behold the low regard we have for our partisan opponents:

If you look at that chart, you’d think it means that Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus—that they’re millions of miles apart on all the most contentious issues of our time. 

Yet that’s false. In education, there’s a remarkable amount of consensus on what should be taught—whether the topic is the sins of America’s past or the virtues of our founding documents. As More in Common wrote, “Both Democrats and Republicans alike grossly overestimate whether members of the opposing party hold extreme views.”

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