This is what our politics has become for waaay too many voters: beating the snot out of the other side. Never mind the policy. Forget about principle and compromise. It’s all about the winning.
That’s the sobering conclusion of a recent study led by University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller. What really motivates voters — and he said it could be as much as 50 percent of those who cast ballots in primaries — is intense dislike, maybe even hatred, of the other side.
Miller said it’s not unlike ethnic conflict in some far corners of the globe.
“For too many of them, it’s not high-minded, good-government, issue-based goals,” he said. “It’s ‘I hate the other party. I’m going to go out and we’re going to beat them.’ That’s troubling.”
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Yes, it is, especially when you consider what the Founding Fathers had in mind. They talked about concepts that now seem old-fashioned and just insanely high-minded to too many people — concepts like compromise and really listening to those who disagree with you and not being so attached to political parties to begin with.
These days, all that is just balderdash. These days, too many folks back the incumbent from their own party even if he or she isn’t doing the job.
When we’re between elections, people tune out. It’s only the excitement of another election and the notion of beating the bad guys that brings them back and revs them up.
It’s politics as sports rivalry: the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Denver Broncos.
Here’s the toughest thing about all this, and it’s the ugly truth buried at the bottom of Miller’s findings: This is the way we want it. We may complain about nasty politics and the blood-sport, dog-eat-dog nature of American elections. But, and I’m whispering now, a lot of us like it this way.
Congress, with its single-digit approval ratings and chronic malfunctioning, reflects all this. Imagine that! The right honorables are only doing what we want them to do.
Miller’s research, “Red and Blue States of Mind: Partisan Hostility and Voting in the United States,” also showed that 38 percent of partisans from both parties agreed that their parties should use any tactics necessary to win elections. Brace yourself: That includes voter suppression, stealing and even lying. It includes cheating and physical violence.
Can you believe it?
No wonder dysfunction reigns. The bottom line: We the people are just as much to blame.