Republicans and Democrats in Congress are going to sit together—all chummy and united—during President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday. I'm betting that this new post-partisan era will be a lot like the post-racial America that Obama supposedly ushered in.
Partisanship is the new racism. We love to criticize it, and we love to claim we've transcended it. We recognize it in our enemies but not in ourselves. We use it to discriminate against others. And increasingly, we find sophisticated ways to mask it in a veneer of open-mindedness.
New psychological research and insights from political science suggest parallels between partisanship and racism. Both seem to arise from aspects of social identity that are immutable or slow to change. Both are publicly decried and privately practiced. Both are increasingly employed in ways that allow practitioners to deny that they are doing what they are doing.
Let's take these assertions one by one. Most of us don't think of partisanship as a matter of social identity. We think that party loyalties stem from our views about government, abortion, guns, and foreign policy. But if you look at those issues, there is no logical reason why people who are against abortion rights should also support gun rights, as many conservatives do. There is no logical reason why those who support unions shouldn't also support a militaristic foreign policy—yet liberals tend to do one but not the other. The issues that bind liberals together and the ones that tie conservatives together are all over the place. Most people see the incoherence in their opponents' views: Liberals, for example, mock conservatives for opposing abortion on the grounds that it takes human life while simultaneously supporting the death penalty. Conservatives shake their heads at liberals who pour onto the streets for antiwar protests, but only when the commander in chief is a Republican. Read more...Thoughts?