Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The dangers produced by political polarisation

In his new article ‘Rethinking Polarization’, American political scientist Jonathan Raunch argues that the increasing polarisation of the American electorate since Bill Clinton’s impeachment is purely and essentially a reflection of fear of the enemy rather than belief in the party one follows.

Raunch notes that the most recent polls form last year show that Democrats are now as averse to compromise as Republicans – who have long been criticised on that issue. However, what Raunch shows is that:
  1. the political center has little interest in politics and its reluctance makes those who do show interest more extreme
  2. polarisation has been affective in nature – Republicans have developed a hatred of Democrats and Democrats a hatred of Republicans
  3. people hate the opposite party because of disappointment in their own political party
Raunch also argues that the collapse of mainline Protestant denominations has displaced apocalyptic and redemptive impulses into politics, and when one combines this with stagnant real wages for the less educated and the absolute decline of industrial jobs, poor white men become marginalised and extremely open to demagoguery.

When Raunch points out this, I am reminded of the situation in Protestant parts of Weimar Germany. There, urban workers, who had unlike their US counterparts completely discarded organised religion, turned en masse to the Communists, whilst the remainder of ancestrally Protestant Weimar Germany turned en masse to the Nazis. The radically individuoegalitarian nature of the Left’s “identity politics” where each person is special due to his or her lifestyle choice and has no connections with even adjacent residents, was also replicated in the culture of Weimar Germany. This lack of connections eliminates senses of shared citizenship.

Dietrich Rüschemeyer showed in his Capitalist Development and Democracy that the combination of these features with a powerful class of large resource owners was – in part – the cause of the collapse of Weimar into the totalitarian Nazi regime. There is to my mind little doubt that in the US the owners of large natural resources like coal and oil fields are at least privately hostile to democracy for nonwhite peoples, because mass mobilization of nonwhites would create demands for extremely high tax rates for these corporations. Unlike in Nazi Germany, the Republican Party has been able to make changes – felony disfranchisement, mass incarceration, voter ID – in a gradual manner. However, it does seem plausible that – even if only the “fringe of the fringe” like Lawrence Auster will dare to say so publicly or in print – the Republican Party’s business backers are emotionally dissatisfied with anything bar a lily-white electorate and no income taxes like existed before the Civil War. If this be true, polarisation is likely only to widen, even if its danger should the Republicans gain more and more power would be economic. Big businesses would be propped up by government to the exclusion of other services, which would create severe social (as “pull” factors lessen in the United States and it becomes less attractive to immigrate to) and environmental (via greenhouse gas emissions increases) effects that would flow on to the rest of the globe.

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