Propaganda and partisanship
Here is James Bowman's opinion about a recent column by David Brooks concerning the 2004 partisan political divide. David Brooks denotes the nearly rigid ideological dividing-lines as the "central mystery of this election", a mystery that James Bowman addresses with the insight that
This may be true, but it tells us not why but how we are divided. For the why, I wonder whether or not the nearly even red-blue split can be said to be a kind of statistical artefact of the final and total extraction of principle from politics.(Author's italics). This is true up to a point, although Brooks hits upon an important truth when he observes that
In this campaign the two candidates do not just describe different policies. They describe different realities. In short, the partisan rivalry fuels itself. Once an electorate becomes tied, there is a built-in emotional pressure that keeps things that way. Even people who claim to be independents find themselves sucked into the vortex.The best explanation that I can offer for why the partisan divide in the United States is so passionate is that it is due not just to a triumph of politics over principles but also to a triumph of propaganda over politics. Start with the postulate that contemporary politics is defined by a clash between two adversarial propaganda campaigns directed by the two major political parties. The individual voter, when faced with two mutually contradictory but equally imperative points of view, has two relatively sane responses to escape the logical dilemma. One response is to endorse one propaganda campaign, at random, to the complete irrational exclusion of the other, while the other response is to irrationally exclude both propaganda campaigns by ignoring politics completely. Thus, we would expect a strident 50/50 partisan split with a major turnout problem if this postulate were true.