The Root Of Our Political Divide.

While the mainstream media and political pundits are still debating the circumstances that led to the election of Donald Trump, a recent study published in the Columbia Journalism Review appears to have revealed the real reason for the surprising results.

Between April 1, 2015 and election day, scholars at the Berkman Klenin Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School and MIT Center for Civic Media examined more than 1.25 million articles pertaining to the election. They found that Clinton supporters shared stories from across a relatively broad political spectrum, including center-right news sources.

Trump supporters, on the other hand, mostly shared articles from Breitbart and a few like-minded websites such as The Daily Caller, Infowars, and the Gateway Pundit. Trump supporters even abandoned the far-right leaning Fox News Channel during the primaries as a result of its criticism of Trump.

The CJR study concluded that we are seeing “asymmetrical polarization” with the right moving ever further to the right while Democrats’ opinions remain relatively unchanged. The conclusions are further supported by a Harvard-Harris Poll that found 80% of Republicans believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media. The Republican’s belief that only their sources can be trusted to tell the truth makes the political right particularly susceptible to propaganda.

This became painfully apparent in 2016 when long-time Republicans willingly abandoned their traditional ideals to fall in line behind the Trump candidacy. And it explains why, despite the fact that more than 70% of Trump’s claims have been exposed as lies, Trump supporters either don’t believe the media and fact-checking organizations, or they simply don’t care. It also explains why a 2016 NBC News/Survey Monkey found that 72% of Republicans still doubt President Obama’s citizenship.

Combined with results of other studies and polls, the scope of problem becomes even more clear.

For example, The Washington Post found that 25% of Republicans think the country has gone too far in expanding the right to vote – the most cherished aspect of American democracy. Additionally, WaPo found that 40% of Republicans believe the US has too greatly expanded freedom of the press despite it being guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Likewise, Pew Research found that just 49% of Republicans believe the freedom of the press to criticize politicians is very important, and that only 68% believe the right to nonviolent protest is very important (another right that is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights). Pew also found that, despite the Founders’ commitment to education as part of their Age of Enlightenment (several of the nation’s Founders also founded universities), 58% of Republicans and right-leaning people believe that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the nation.

Most disturbing of all are the results of a 2015 YouGov Survey that found 43% of Republicans could see themselves supporting a military coup!

Imagine how the Founders would react to the willingness of American citizens to abandon their “more perfect union” and a democratically-elected government for a military junta; or how the Founding Fathers would react to the indifference of a large percentage of Americans to the interference in our electoral process by a hostile foreign government; or how they would react to Congress’s refusal to act upon the president’s violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Given all of this, it’s time to ignore those who say our political chasm has been created by both parties – that both are equally at fault. It’s not Democrats who have abandoned the center. The fault lies almost entirely with Republicans and those who support Donald Trump despite his obvious unsuitability for the office of President.

In fact, if these people do not support the Constitution, one may legitimately question if they believe in democracy and the American ideals.

Let’s Not Over-Analyze Trump’s Victory.

Despite the blame being heaped onto the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, I believe it was never a fair contest. Hillary was outgunned by a biased media; by a partisan FBI director; and by Russian interference. But even without those things, Hillary may have fallen victim, as did Trump’s primary opponents, to the cultural changes that have taken place over the past five decades.

Those who voted for Trump simply wanted to throw a live grenade into Washington without regard for the aftermath. They have been enticed by a right-wing ideology that has destroyed respect for America’s greatest institutions – the federal government, the court system, traditional news media, science, and public education.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump voters were not merely blue collar workers who are struggling as the result of globalization. In fact, many of Trump’s supporters are comfortably retired, or are quite wealthy. These people were driven to vote for Trump out of the fear that they will lose their power and wealth to immigrants and people of color. Indeed, for many, President Obama was the embodiment of that fear.

Certainly, there is also the rural-urban divide that has been much discussed. But that is based on economic conditions that no president or administration can easily solve. It has followed the demise of the family farmer. Since the 1960’s, the size of farms has grown by ten-fold. As a consequence, there are far fewer people to shop in small towns.

In addition, franchise organizations and large box stores like Walmart, which are subsidized by governments, have used predatory pricing to hollow out the retail centers of small and medium-sized towns. That means there are far fewer independent retailers, and far fewer small-town jobs that pay a living wage.

At the same time, robots have replaced human workers in auto plants and other manufacturing plants.

Those who once worked in rural communities and mid-size cities have been left with a choice: Either continue to struggle, or give up the only lifestyle they have known and move to the large urban centers. These people are angry…at their former employers, at their government, and at what they see as the urban “elites” who seem to be do doing much better than they are.

Obviously, their anger is misplaced. But they have fallen victim to the new GOP’s message of fear – fear of those they don’t know and don’t understand. And their fear is driven by Republican propaganda on Fox News; on right-wing radio; on Breitbart News; on social media. During this past election, they were also deluded by a plethora of fake news sites – many of them financed by Putin’s Russia.

Addressing their anger and their plight will not be easy. Jobs lost to corporate farms, big box stores and robots will not be coming back. And adding tariffs to goods from our international trading partners, as Trump suggests, will only make matters worse by increasing the cost of the goods they need.

No president can wave a wand and bring back family farms and restore small towns to their former glory. That would take an act of Congress to end subsidies for corporate farms; to make multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes; to make the wealthy pay their share of income taxes. But those things are anathema to those who now control Congress and the White House. Instead, they are committed to trickle-down economics on steroids – an economic theory that has never worked.

Given that reality, it seems likely that the new government will have to distract their angry rural supporters by creating a diversion. It’s likely they will try to re-focus the anger toward immigrants; toward Muslims; toward Planned Parenthood.

Oh wait! They’ve already done that. That’s how they got elected to begin with!

What Trump And A Live Grenade Have In Common.

There’s a growing movement in the US of voters disenchanted with the system and fueled by rightwing news outlets (I’m thinking of you, Fox News Channel and all of you hate radio clowns) that have decided to destroy our government rather than try to fix it. Nothing else could explain how the Great Pumpkin won the GOP nomination for president.

They see in The Donald a strong man – a father figure – who will go to Washington to clean house. They believe, somehow, that Daddy will make everything all right. They don’t seem to care about the damage that could be done; the destruction of decades-long relationships with our allies; the wars we could be drug into as a result of the Orange Ape’s short temper; the jobs lost by ill-conceived plans. For example, Moody’s Analytics examined both Trump’s and Clinton’s economic plans and found that Trump’s could cost 3.6 million jobs over 4 years, while Clinton’s would create 10 million jobs over the same time period. Other economists have noted that Trump’s tax plan would add trillions to the national debt.

Trump voters are willing to overlook his bombastic attacks and lack of presidential demeanor because they want to see a true outsider in the White House. They actually admire his insulting tirades against those who disagree with him. They excuse his racist statements because they claim to be tired of political correctness. They ignore his ill-conceived plans that are almost entirely without substance or detail. They forgive his anger; his obvious narcissism; his lack of character; his apparent lack of a moral compass. In fact, they have lowered the bar for Trump by almost every measure. But like a 1950s limbo dancer, he still seems to crawl under it. Indeed, after his vicious attacks on a Gold Star family mourning the loss of their son who was valiantly killed in Iraq, they continue to make excuses for their leader. And now they are trying to vilify the family.


Some are simply so partisan that they can’t accept the idea of a member of the competing party becoming president. They have been so brainwashed by rightwing media; so convinced that mainstream media are lying; that they are willing to vote against their own self-interests – to vote for someone who will cut taxes for the wealthy and powerful while shoving more of the burden onto those who can least afford it. These people have been around since the 1970s. But, today, there is a new kind of voter.

These are people who don’t care if a presidential candidate will work on their behalf to make our nation stronger and better. They don’t care if the candidate will work across the aisle to get things done. They don’t care if the candidate will try to improve government. They’d rather tear it down. Indeed, they are little more than terrorists who want to throw a grenade into the room – our government – to see how people react. They want to watch the chaos; to watch everyone run for cover. They care little about what will happen when that grenade inevitably goes off. They know there will be a mess. But they don’t really care.

However bad things get, they will have sent their message.