With the results of a newly released poll demonstrating the deepening partisan divide in America, a panel at the leftist Brookings Institution placed blame for that divide on President Trump and Republican voters, who are allegedly driven by “fear” and ethnonationalism.
The eighth annual Public Values Survey, released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), showed 52 percent of Republicans consider Democratic policies so misguided they present a threat to the country, with 39 percent saying Democratic policies are misguided but not dangerous.
By comparison, 54 percent of Democrats feel Republicans policies pose a threat to the country while 38 percent believe they are simply misguided.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, suggested a “pre-Spanish Civil War mentality” was taking hold among Americans – one of numerous references to war at the forum – while arguing Trump’s voter base “feeds on fear.”
“I think what it means to be a Republican under Trump is to be scared,” he said. “What drove appeal for Donald Trump in the primaries, and what allowed him to unify a very hesitant party behind him, and now turn them into loyal fans, has been a sense of fear among different groups of Republicans.”
MSNBC host Joy Reid, who recently drew headlines for declaring rural American voters a “core threat to our democracy,” argued the election of former President Barack Obama was primarily a symbolic act for many African Americans, and that Trump voters responded with “countersymbolism.”
Trump is “almost a flip-side, bizarro-world Obama,” she said. “For a lot of hardcore Obama supporters, Obama was the point. It wasn’t specifically that he would do some specific economic thing. It was the symbolism of having somebody who was not white, somebody who has international roots in his family, somebody who represented a changing America.”
In contrast, according to Reid, “for a lot of Trump supporters Trump is the point. It isn’t his policies. It’s not what he’s going to do even for them. Just having that man, who is white and very ethnonationalist in his whiteness … very proactive about putting forward his gender and racial identity and saying I represent this and I’ll attack the people who in your view are detriments to it … that’s kind of the point.”
Despite joining his fellow panelists in placing blame for our country’s partisan divisions solely on Trump and Republican voters, Olsen was quick to caution the leftist elite against dismissing Trump voters, noting it could cause “a much more dangerous counterreaction.”
“If you’re educated and well-off, you tend to look at these reactions as being hopelessly naïve, out of touch, racist, irrational and consequently worthy of being ignored,” he said. “If that’s the response, you shouldn’t expect them to give up their arms. … If the answer is basically to build a wall around populism, what you simply do is build up tension, build up the partisanship.”
“And then, if you go through some sort of economic decline that makes even more people despairing, you raise the possibility of a much more dangerous counterreaction.”