A University of Minnesota event: Fear and loathing across the party divide

2008 Democratic National Convention: Day 1
The symbols of the Democratic(L) (donkey) and Republican (elephant) parties are seen on display in Washington, DC on August 25, 2008.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Two nationally-renowned political observers share their views this hour — and conclude that the political attitudes of Americans are now characterized by a deep sense of ill will.

With a global pandemic underway, some people thought — or hoped — that America's political polarization might simmer down. But there's not a lot of evidence of it. The University of Minnesota Humphrey School hosted an event titled, "Democrats and Republicans Don't Just Disagree — They Hate Each Other."

Political science professor Larry Jacobs hosted the discussion, connecting up remotely last Thursday with Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review and Shanto Iyengar of Stanford University.

Iyengar said his research shows the ill will goes beyond the political domain, and there is “party prejudice in our daily interpersonal relations, our social lives, and what we do in our spare time.”

Iyengar added his research shows “partisans are evenly matched in terms of their capacity to display animus.”

Ramesh Ponnuru said, “each side’s coalition thinks of itself as a kind of ‘silent majority,’ and they are surrounded by so many like-minded people it’s a very easy assumption to fall into.”

The trouble with this, Ponnuru said, is “if both sides think they already have a majority, two things follow: One: you don’t have to persuade people who don’t already share your views, and two: if you suffer political setbacks, it’s because of something unfair, something illegitimate that has happened.”

“On the right,” Ponnuru continued, “it tends to be the ‘Deep State,’ or the media, or voter fraud has stolen these elections from you. And on the left, it’s the Koch brothers, it’s the Russians, it’s ‘Dark Money.’ But in both cases, I think, this moves us farther away from a healthful politics.”

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.