The public phase of the impeachment hearings started on November 18th. Trump’s time in office has created a divide in politics far greater than ever before. Not surprisingly, the president’s approval ratings have changed minimally since the start of the inquiry. This tells Americans something important. This impeachment, this entire presidency has added tremendously to an already polarized country, so much so that it is almost impossible to reach compromise. Most Democrats support impeachment, that is unlikely to change. Republicans mostly do not and that won’t change either.
A poll recently taken by ABC/Washington Post shows that 82% of Democrats support the impeachment and removal of Trump from office, while only 18% of Republicans share that opinion. Comparatively, only a little over 50% of Republicans supported the impeachment of Clinton. Though the support that Trump still holds might seem shocking, even more so is the fact people don’t care what this inquiry proves. A poll taken by National Public Radio shows an overwhelming 63% of Americans “can’t imagine any information” changing their minds on their opinions the president. Given the gravity of the charges being leveled against the president, we would expect that Americans are watching with open ears, listening to the facts to decide if Trump is acting unconstitutionally. That is not the case.
Polarization has grown quickly in the United States over the past few years. A 2018 article written by the American Behavioral Scientist identifies extreme polarization as an effective dimension beyond issue based differences. Political opinions are increasingly determined by societal factors such as one’s religion, geographic location, socioeconomic status and levels of traditionalism. As a result, support for a specific party now has to do with specific policies and more to do with cultural standards.
A recent article by Glenn Geher shows the geographic reality of political polarization. In 1992, a lot of the electoral map was white, meaning many countries were equally split between Republicans and Democrats. A graph in 1992 shows that anywhere on the map, the division between Republicans and Democrats was fairly even. Candidates in most counties won on average by less than 20 points. By 2016, virtually no county had a candidate win by less than 20 points. A lot of the map looks red as Democrats tend to win in more highly concentrated areas.
The problem shown in this map is that people are living in areas where others share the same values and political ideas which function as echo chambers. Opinions basically run through their blood. There is no tolerance for other opinions because people don’t hear any. No one is forced to open their minds. Geher’s map shows that people have no reason to look anywhere other than the town talk for answers. People grow into certain news channels and different definitions of right or wrong, even if they have no information on an issue.
These studies also inform the dynamics at play in the impeachment proceedings. Donald Trump’s followers are more likely than not to believe what he says whether it is proven right or wrong. Because we live so geographically sheltered, values running so deeply from town to town, the impeachment inquiry of our president will finish how it started. This is not an issue anymore over corruption of our president. This is blue versus red. Democrats say yes, Republicans say no.
Dowd, M. (2019). Why the impeachment hearings are historic, but may not change minds: Opinion. Retrieved 21 November 2019, from https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/reasons-trump-impeachment-hearings-historic-change-minds-opinion/story?id=66938529
Geher, G. (2018). The Polarization of America. Retrieved 21 November 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/201808/the-polarization-america
Kolbert, E. (2017). Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds. Retrieved 21 November 2019, from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds
McCoy, J., Rahman, T., & Somer, M. (2018). Polarization and the Global Crisis of Democracy: Common Patterns, Dynamics, and Pernicious Consequences for Democratic Polities. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(1), 16-42. doi: 10.1177/0002764218759576
Montanaro, D. (2019). NPR Choice page. Retrieved 21 November 2019, from https://www.npr.org/2019/11/19/780540637/poll-americans-overwhelmingly-say-impeachment-hearings-wont-change-their-minds