The biggest news in politics last week may not be Eric Cantor's defeat. At about the same time, Pew Research released a report on political partisanship in America based on a telephone survey of 10,000 adults. There Pew findings have some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news. Most of what you have been fearing is true: As a nation, we are more polarized; we dislike those who disagree with us politically; we are living in a political echo chamber; and our elected representatives are doing exactly what the most engaged voters tell them to do, which is to hold their breath until they get everything they want.
Now the good news. Most Americans are not ideological warriors. The Pew analysts write, “These [partisan] sentiments are not shared by all – or even most – Americans. The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want.”
The problem is that America’s moderates have ceded Washington to the zealots. That has to change.