I'm not using the word "hate" lightly.
"Just over 42 percent of the people in each party view the opposition as 'downright evil,'" New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall wrote of the survey in a 2019 column.
If you apply that percentage to the vote outcomes from 2016, as Edsall does, you find that over 48 million Americans who participated in that election see the opposition as villains.
Words mean things.
Evil is a term you apply to, say, Nazis.
Or a dictator.
Not your neighbor who disagrees with you on who should be president or the question of expanding Medicare into a universal health care program.
It gets worse, though. Not-at-all-small factions of both Democratic and Republican voters think we'd be better off if the opposition were dead.
"Some 20 percent of Democrats (that translates to 12.6 million voters) and 16 percent of Republicans (or 7.9 million voters) do think on occasion that the country would be better off if large numbers of the opposition died," Edsall notes.
If you're not depressed yet, per this survey, 18.3% of Democrats and 13.8 percent of Republicans said some level of violence (ranging from "a little" to "a lot") would be justified if the opposition wins the 2020 election.
Interestingly, this isn't necessarily a sour grapes position. The authors of the study of which this survey was a part noted: "significantly more support for partisan violence among strong partisans when told their party was more likely than not to win in 2020.”
They continue: “our evidence suggests that winning more than losing prompts strong partisans to feel less opposed to partisan violence.”
Many Americans want to win power in government, and then use that power to shut up the other side through the use of violence.
I would have a hard time believing that was true if I hadn't witnessed, first hand, how many people across the nation condoned the violence of the protests here in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This is an attitude that's somewhat more prevalent among Democrats than Republicans, but it's common enough across the political spectrum to be alarming.
"People realize that we’re stuck with each other, right?" asks Geraghty.
Maybe we don't.
Politicians tend to talk to us in stentorian, voice-of-god tones.
It's a Flight 93 election, they tell us.
The other side's policies will kill people, they tell us.
Is it any wonder so many of us see the other side as, not just wrong, but evil?
But we shouldn't let ourselves off the hook. Politicians, not to mention the TV news talking heads and the activists and the lobbyists, deploy that sort of rhetoric because it works on us. We buy it.
We should stop.
There is no final election. There is no ultimate outcome. Politics is not a video game you can win by defeating the boss on the last level.
The other side is always going to have another legislative session in which to advance its policies.
There's always going to be another election they can win, even if they lost the last one.
That's as it should be. The ceaseless rancor of campaign politics and an open, democratic legislative process is much preferable to the unquestioned rule of a particular faction.
It's time modern Americans made their peace with it.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.