TRENDING How polarization plunges US into unprecedented crises


How polarization plunges US into unprecedented crises

People's Daily app

09:49, October 31, 2020

Despite warnings from public health experts, mass rallies have been staged across the United States.

The country now had more than 8.8 million coronavirus cases, with more than 220,000 deaths. It also set back-to-back records on Oct. 23 and 24, reporting more than 83,000 new cases on both days, breaking the record for single-day cases in July. 

The public health crisis has also triggered the sharpest contraction since records began. In the second quarter of 2020, the economy contracted by over 30%. That's more than three times greater than the 10% fall in 1958.

Though the US economy in the summer recovered much of the ground it lost in the spring, the economic crisis that Covid-19 brought on is far from over.

As in many parts of the world, coronavirus lockdown measures very quickly led to soaring levels of unemployment in the US. The rate jumped to 14.7% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

And the ailing economy faces further pressures from Congress’s failure to pass a stimulus bill. Both the Democrats and Republicans have reverted to finger-pointing in the face of mounting criticism and frustration among citizens desperate for another relief payment. 

In fact, America’s public health and economic crisis both have roots in its extreme partisan polarization, which also leads to a political crisis.

Government shutdowns, Supreme Court packing, partisan impeachments, mounting concerns about the fairness of elections...

It seems that American partisan antipathy is now deeper and more extensive than at any point in the last two decades.

A recent study by political scientists Danny Hayes and Liliana Mason shows that about 60 percent of both Democrats and Republicans said they believed the other party was a “serious threat to the United States.” 

This growing polarization comes not only from traditional liberal-conservative divides, but also deeply from racial and cultural identities.

This demographic transition has become politically explosive because America’s racial and cultural differences now map almost perfectly onto the two major parties. 

The Democrats represent a rainbow coalition that includes urban and educated white voters and people of color. Nearly half of Democratic voters are nonwhite. The Republicans, by contrast, remain overwhelmingly white and Christian.

When polarization erodes deep into the political institutions, divided government can easily descend into a kind of permanent institutional battle, leaving the federal government unable to do the most basic work of governance. 

Today, two opposing parties in the US fear the other will destroy the nation if they achieve power. Partisanship becomes equated with patriotism, and destroying the other side becomes the ultimate goal. 

(Produced by Wang Xiangyu, Qiao Wai, Ni Tao, He Jieqiong, Shan Xin, Wang Jingyuan, Gao Yutong and Yu Rong)

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