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‘This Is One Of The Most Challenging Moments In American History’: American Partisan Divide At Worst Point In History

By December 15, 2020February 5th, 2021No Comments

Podcast // KJZZ 91.5

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: For more than a month, the final numbers had indicated Joe Biden had won the presidential race, but millions of Americans and hundreds of Republican elected officials still haven’t been willing to refer to Biden as president-elect. And some of the expressions against that result have been hostile and full of venom with President [Donald] Trump and a number of his most passionate supporters leading the pack. Biden says one of his most important goals is to bring Americans back together to a point where we can disagree with each other about policies rather than yelling and accusing each other of character flaws or a lack of patriotism. The National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) — based in Washington, D.C., and under the University of Arizona umbrella — has been working on that for nearly a decade. And its executive director, Keith Allred, joins me. Keith, how would you characterize our current situation in the U.S. when it comes to having civil discourse?

KEITH ALLRED: I don’t think there’s any doubt, Steve, that this is one of the most challenging moments in American history at the level of civil discourse and the level of partisan divisions. We’ve been more deeply divided as a country before — we had a civil war, and I think during the Vietnam War and civil rights movement, we were more deeply divided. What’s unique about our age is that these cut so cleanly along partisan lines. In those earlier conflicts, those kind of crossed partisan lines. So the unique challenge we have is that everything has been sucked into the difference between Republicans and Democrats and become so tribal and toxic — and that that really is the worst in American history right now. Give you one piece of data on that. An analysis of the more than 13 million roll call votes cast in Congress since 1789 shows that congressional voting is along in the most purely party lines in American history in 230 years. So this this really is a substantial challenge that’s been building for about 40 years now. So we can — you know, the last month since the election, as you point out, have been particularly challenging. But this has been a trend that has been building for about 40 years of increasing hyper-partisanship.

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