Published October 1, 2021
Many Americans are increasingly concerned that our national heritage, our democratic republic, is seriously in danger. A new poll from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics confirms that we have reason to worry — and that the fault is in ourselves, not our political stars.
We can see the signs of the fraying bonds of citizenship all around us. The increasingly hostile tone of mainstream political speech. The inability of our two parties to find common ground in cases of clear national interest, such as raising the debt ceiling. The way that leaders of each side accuse the other of intentionally subverting the election process to ensure their hold on power. The fact that partisans increasingly isolate themselves in information bubbles where they only hear their side of an argument and often only the extreme elements of that side.
That’s why the Center for Politics poll is so worrying. It surveyed 2,000 voters on a host of issues related to democratic health, especially how each viewed members and leaders of the other party. It found that large numbers of Joe Biden and Donald Trump voters view the other party with fear and contempt.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.