News Analysis: U.S. political divides to persist for years to come

Source: Xinhua| 2020-12-17 18:03:15|Editor: huaxia
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by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Political divides are expected to continue in the United States, despite the fact that the elections are drawing to a close, underscoring deep cultural and economic gaps among Americans.

"Americans are profoundly divided along partisan lines," Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua, adding that the year 2020 has seen the divides deepen.

"And that's a tough thing to draw back from," he said.

Indeed, Americans are sharply divided over what is wrong with the country and what should be done about it. During the recent elections, sentiments of confrontation and division boiled over, with demonstrators being involved in violent clashes in cities nationwide, and social media buzzing with extreme viewpoints on both sides.

Most political divides are between urban Americans -- many of them liberal -- and rural Americans -- many of them conservative.

The root causes of the divides lie deep and can be traced as far back as then President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and gradually became worse during the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Just as Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua, the cavernous gap has been emerging for decades, and has unfolded gradually over the past 40 years.

Some experts believe President Donald Trump indeed widened these gaps and exaggerated the conflicts among different groups of Americans. However, he was not a cause of divisions but rather a reflection of them.

For more specific causes, West argued that the loss of jobs and the difficulties of providing economic opportunities are the major factors that contribute to current political divides.

Divisions are also compounded by social media. Digital technology causes the pot to boil over because social media enable polarization and create echo chambers of like-minded individuals, West said.

By keeping people on phones, computers and tablets for hours on end, tech firms use algorithms that push individuals toward like-minded people, and nudge them toward more extreme views, experts said.

While many believe that the incoming Democratic administration is relatively united on issues like climate change, education investment, and the need to improve economic opportunities, there are also apparent disagreements on cultural issues among the party members.

"These issues are being debated in society as a whole so it is not likely that the intra-party divisions will disappear any time soon," West said.

There is also an argument that the American population is not as divided as the Washington elites -- politicians, lobby groups, activists and the media -- who were believed to be using the population as pawns in their partisan war.

Morris P. Fiorina, professor of political science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued in a recent paper that ideologically one-sided news exposure may be largely confined to a small, but highly involved and influential segment of the population.

But not matter for the elites or the ordinary people, so long as the bitter partisan rancor continues, the United States will remain as a country that is united in name only. Enditem