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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Republicans See Democrats as 'Spiteful,' Axios poll shows Valerie Richardson Democrats can apparently tolerate anything except for Republicans.
A stunning 61 percent of Democrats labeled Republicans as “racist/bigoted/sexist” when asked which words they would use to describe the other party, while 31 percent of Republicans said the same thing about Democrats, according to a poll released this week.
Not that Republicans were particularly fond of the left. They preferred to dub Democrats “spiteful” (54 percent) and “ignorant” (49 percent), while 54 percent of Democrats said Republicans were ignorant and 44 percent called them spiteful.
When it came to “evil,” there was a tie: 23 percent of Republicans used the word to describe Democrats, roughly the same share as the 21 percent of Democrats who said so about Republicans.
Charges of racism, once rare in politics, have become commonplace under President Trump, with liberals routinely attacking the president for his stance against illegal immigration, and left and right attacking each other in an increasingly hostile atmosphere.
Part of the problem, analysts say, is the fragmented U.S. media, which come under fire from both for taking sides and exacerbating the divisions with stories that focus on the political extremes.
“The larger media conversation is constantly demonizing,” said Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, on Fox News.
“You see this framework through broadcast media, cable media as well, the newspapers, and it is the extreme,” said Ms. Bruce, a columnist for The Washington Times. “It’s about presenting the worst-case scenario about certainly Republicans. And then of course there’s coverage of the attacks and the mobs on the Democrat side.”
She said America is “not as divided as the media is telling us we are,” while others insisted that the political split is no exaggeration.
Nick Troiano, executive director of Unite America, which promotes third-party candidates, pointed to a recent event in his own life.
“I had a personal experience on a date last week with someone who expressed to me that it wouldn’t work out because they would only date someone who also identified as a liberal Democrat,” he said. “And I’m an independent. And that’s never happened to me in my life before.”
Why? “I think that has a lot to do with the resistance, quote unquote,” he said. “The party that is supposed to be more open-minded and tolerant is also the party that is more close-minded about associating people who identify differently than them.”
Not that Mr. Troiano lets Republicans off the hook.
“That’s not to say there aren’t racists or sexists in the Republican Party, but it’s become a political tactic to demonize your enemy,” he said. “And that does make it harder to work with them or find common ground if you think they are bad people.”
The Axios poll had sobering news for any Democrat planning to bring home a Republican to Mom and Dad: 41 percent of Democrats said they would be “extremely/very” or “somewhat” bothered if a close family member married a member of a different political party.
Republicans were more open-minded about interparty marriage, with 26 percent saying they would be bothered by a Democrat marrying into the family. Only 17 percent of independents said it would bother them.
The SurveyMonkey online poll of 3,700 adults conducted shortly before the Nov. 6 midterm elections reinforced fears that Americans not only disagree but also increasingly dislike one another as the political debate grows more heated.
“Both parties are being redefined around the extreme emotions shaping extremely ugly views of each other,” said the Axios analysis. “That means that, as the midterm elections proved, there’s less room for moderates or centrists in the current political environment — a dynamic that’s likely to get worse before it gets better.”
Democrats and liberal commentators routinely refer to Mr. Trump as racist and sexist. They point to his comments and stances on issues such as the border wall, the Central American caravan and Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Shortly before the midterms, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, called Mr. Trump “the most racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted president in history” at a campaign stop in Maryland.
Republicans counter that female and minority unemployment rates have tumbled to record lows under Mr. Trumpand argue that he should be judged on his results, not his sometimes over-the-top rhetoric.
Ms. Bruce compared the Republican president’s record with that of President Obama. While the Democrat ran on a platform promoting women and racial minorities, she said, he failed to boost their real-life prospects as Mr. Trumphas done.
“You don’t want to just judge people based on what they say; you have to judge them on what they do,” said Ms. Bruce, adding that Mr. Trump has “lifted up women in a way that we haven’t seen in an extraordinarily long time.”
The hyperpartisanship has spurred efforts to promote centrist views and cooperation with the launch of groups such as No Labels, Better Angels, and Living Room Conversations. Last year, the House formed the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus aimed at breaking Washington gridlock.
Another hopeful sign: After NBC’s liberal “Saturday Night Live” mocked Republican Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw for his eye patch — he lost his right eye in Afghanistan — the show invited him one week later to make amends.
Better Angels praised the segment, saying the episode showed that “[j]ust because we disagree or occasionally speak out of turn, does not mean we cannot learn from our mistakes and each other, have some fun, and regain mutual respect.”