It seems lately like everywhere, on both the Right and the Left, we are hearing a chorus of voices tell us America is hopelessly divided and on the brink of a second civil war.
The level of rancor and incivility characterizing much of our contemporary political dialogue appears to confirm as much on a daily basis. It appears Left and Right have arrived at irreconcilable worldviews, disagreeing on first principles, core convictions, specific policy choices and ultimate ends. Increasingly, they seem unable to see eye to eye even when it comes to pure matters of fact.
But what if the appearance of a great, insuperable divide is vastly overstated or even being deliberately amplified by forces that benefit from division? The gulf on certain significant matters is substantial, to be sure, and yet when we turn to look one by one at some of the most high-profile issues, we see that the split may be greatly overstated.
There is a great deal of talk about transsexual athletes, especially when men and boys seek a shortcut to the awards podium by competing against women and girls. The reality, however, is that a strong majority of Americans—62 percent—hold the commonsense view that athletes shouldn’t get to compete in categories other than those corresponding to their birth genders, while only 34 percent have a different view.
The streaming of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border has become the subject of apparently fierce debate, and yet, looking behind the headlines, a clear 71 percent of Americans believe it is unacceptable for people to enter this country illegally.
“Defunding the police” is a policy proposal that has been headline news ever since the BLM protests and riots of summer 2020. However, this one isn’t even close: 84 percent of Americans oppose defunding, with 47 percent believing that funding for police should actually be increased. Only 15 percent favor less funding. This may be in no small part because, as another recent poll found, 77 percent of registered voters are “extremely” or “very” concerned about rising crime, including, for example, 74 percent of voters in traditionally liberal bastions such as New York City.
President Lyndon Johnson’s disastrous “Great Society” programs were expressly envisioned by Johnson as a method of reparations, i.e., to try to get historically disadvantaged black Americans to the same starting line enjoyed by some other Americans. Yet our current breed of “racism” and “white supremacy” fanatics keeps pushing for yet further reparations. Thankfully, however, most of us won’t be fooled again: 62 percent of Americans oppose reparations, with 46 percent being definite in that view, while only 17 percent are strong proponents of the view that reparations should definitely be paid.
Amidst all the hubbub over critical race theory in our schools, clear majorities of Americans believe that schools should be teaching the truth about both slavery (78 percent) and racism (73 percent). But 86 percent of Americans also believe that schools are going beyond the facts and pushing a problematic political agenda, with 63 percent considering this a major problem; relatedly, 74 percent of Americans believe that race has become too much of a focus in our schools, with 49 percent deeming this a major problem as well.
If we listen to the media propagandists, Biden’s commitment to nominating a black woman for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer is an A-OK, even progressive, thing to do. More than three-quarters of Americans surveyed, however, know better: 76 percent believe Biden should be considering “all possible nominees” and not just a black woman, while only 23 percent want him to stay committed to his current plan.
While the most unapologetically vulgar identity politics have been normalized in America, it says something—indeed, it says a lot—when 57 percent of voters in California, arguably the most liberal state in the country, vote “no” when affirmative action is put to a plebiscite—this despite the 2020 proposition carrying the momentum of the radical racial frenzy unleashed by the death of George Floyd and despite the support of high-profile celebrities and politicians, with $31 million in donations to the cause, against only $1.6 million raised to defeat the proposition.
It is still more telling, in fact, that despite nearly 25 years of identity politics running amok in the interim, the 57 percent vote against affirmative action in 2020 actually marked a slight increase from the 54 percent who voted to end affirmative action in California when the issue was first put to the popular test in 1996.
Expanding the lens beyond deep blue California to the nation as a whole, the results are more damning still: 76 percent of us are done with affirmative action by race in university admissions, and an even higher 81 percent oppose gender-based admissions. Shocking as it may sound to some, most of us believe that scarce slots should be awarded based on merit rather than melanin or other inborn traits.
Even when it comes to the question of policing speech, a solid majority of us (57 percent) believe that “people today are too easily offended by what others say,” while only 40 percent feel that “people should be careful what they say to avoid offending others.”
For the same reason, moreover, that polls consistently failed to capture the true level of voters’ support for President Trump in the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, I would be willing to bet that more than a few poll respondents are loath to reveal their true beliefs on questions of race and diversity, such that support for anti-identitarian consensus views is actually understated.
But if so many of these pressing matters which we have been conditioned to think of as hot-button issues spurring widespread dissent are, in reality, the subjects of widespread consensus, where is the disconnect? The answer is depressingly simple: massively overrepresented in media, academia, and among social influencers of every other sort, screeching “progressive” elites are driving our dialogue, sending us into a sharp left turn off the straight and narrow path.
Many of these people—whether bestselling celebrity academics such as Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi, or journalists working for publications such as New York Times that knowingly monetize tall tales of “racism” and “white supremacy” to trigger the emotions of their liberal readers and drive ad sales—have a financial incentive to further racial and other identitarian hysteria.
Some of the high-profile individuals contributing to the divisive rhetoric on such issues may be sincerely committed to their causes, of course, but this does not make them any more representative of the nation as a whole. According to the comprehensive 2018 “Hidden Tribes” report from More in Common, an organization dedicated to fighting political polarization, just 8 percent of the country falls into the tribe the authors dub “Progressive Activists.” Here is the report’s summary paragraph describing these folks, their general views and proclivities and their disproportionate influence when it comes to matters of public concern:
Progressive Activists have strong ideological views, high levels of engagement with political issues, and the highest levels of education and socioeconomic status. Their own circumstances are secure. They feel safer than any group, which perhaps frees them to devote more attention to larger issues of social justice in their society. They have an outsized role in public debates, even though they comprise a small portion of the total population, about one in 12 Americans. They are highly sensitive to issues of fairness and equity in society, particularly regarding race, gender, and other minority group identities. Their emphasis on unjust power structures leads them to be very pessimistic about fairness in America. They are uncomfortable with nationalism and ambivalent about America’s role in the world.
Consistent with the report’s findings, it is no secret that politically engaged Democrats and liberals are massively overrepresented in media and academia, both of which are progressively becoming even more heavily skewed left with the passing years. In 1971, 26 percent of all journalists identified as Republicans, while 36 percent were Democrats; by 2014, Republicans were just 7 percent, with Democrats now outnumbering them four to one. The numbers are undoubtedly still more skewed today, in a time when journalists are, moreover, eager to let their biases show through and unwilling to uphold even the pretense of journalistic objectivity.
The numbers for academia today are just as stark: 44 percent of the American professoriate identifies as liberal, while just 9 percent identifies as conservative, but in the influential social sciences and humanities, those respective numbers are 58 percent versus 5 percent and 52 percent versus 4 percent, respectively. Not so long ago—in 1984—liberals comprised 39 percent of academics, and conservatives were 34 percent. That is a seismic shift.
Not to be forgotten is the large dollop of toxic bias being stirred into our collective cauldron by Big Tech’s skewed search algorithms and increasingly heavy-handed speech censors; like these others important sectors of society, Big Tech has a pronounced leftward tilt, with only 1 percent of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft employee contributions to political campaigns going to Republican candidates for office (as of 2018). The largest recipient of Big Tech’s political contributions that year (receiving $1 billion) was ActBlue, a fundraising platform for “progressive” candidates.
With this much sludge clogging up our political arteries, why should we be surprised that when it comes to the kinds of issues that matter to our ruling elites, it looks to us that we are far more divided than we actually are?
The good news is, we are catching on. One particular area of widespread consensus that the media is likely none-too-interested in disseminating is the general public’s view of the media itself. While President Trump was widely demonized for calling the media “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” the people, it seems, actually agree with him. In a July 2021 Rasmussen poll, 58 percent of likely voters agreed that “the media is truly the enemy of the people.” And in a still more recent Gallup poll from October 2021, the percentage of Americans who trusted the media was a meager 7 percent. Scandal-plagued CNN’s 90 percent ratings free-fall over the course of the past year may be not a mere aberration but part of a broader trend in which people have begun to tune out all of these ratings-driven spreaders of sensationalized “breaking news,” profit-driven racial hysteria, thinly veiled regime propaganda, polarizing political bias, and mass misinformation.
Universities are similarly attracting our ire. Though Republicans and Democrats may have some disagreement when it comes to the details of why universities are becoming problematic, regardless of whether the issue is exorbitant tuitions, overly politicized administrations, professors, and classrooms or the inadequate teaching of essential skills, 61 percent of us agree universities are headed in the wrong direction, and enrollment is on the downswing.
The reputation of Big Tech is, likewise, starting to take a hit in the public eye. As of approximately one year ago, 45 percent of Americans had a negative view of these firms, as compared to only 34 percent with a positive view, and 57 percent of us wanted more government regulation of these many-tentacled monstrosities. And that was largely before tech platforms began to play the part of government lackeys administering an escalating mass censorship campaign in which backroom technocrats take it upon themselves to stifle public debate and purport to resolve difficult questions of what is or is not good science while deplatforming leading credentialed virologists and elected politicians alike.
We must break the spell and realize that we have the strength of numbers on our side. Then, we need to overcome the collective action problem that afflicts all diffuse majorities and band together to fight a culture war to take back our institutions from the sinister forces that have co-opted them. Those of us fortunate enough to see here and now where it is we stand have a responsibility to illuminate the path, to spread our words of warning and our good word far and wide until the dark veil that has descended upon the land is lifted and a chorus of hosannas can again ring out from sea to shining sea.