According to some disheartening new research — and a super-handy chart courtesy of Mother Jones' Kevin Drum — Republicans and Democrats are rapidly turning into the Montagues and Capulets of American politics. While it's no secret that our two-party political system has a long, bloody history of divisiveness, interparty marriages are becoming something of a social taboo.
Sociologist Claude Fischer explains that the latest exploration of partisanship from Stanford political scientist Shanto Iyengar and co-authors Gaurav Sood and Yphtach Lelkes suggests Americans are starting to cross their arms and narrow their eyes more often when confronted with a bona fide member of the opposing political party. Fischer describes the research thusly:
A pair of surveys asked Americans a more concrete question: in 1960, whether they would be "displeased" if their child married someone outside their political party, and, in 2010, would be "upset" if their child married someone of the other party. In 1960, about 5 percent of Americans expressed a negative reaction to party intermarriage; in 2010, about 40 percent did (Republicans about 50 percent, Democrats about 30 percent).
He adds that political animosity isn't "historically" new, something you'd know if you watched Gangs of New York, duh. It's just that, mid-20th century America used to have a more placid and accepting political climate. Now, a smog of what That Atlantic's David Graham calls "hyperpartisanship" has set in. The relationship between Democrats and Republicans, which not all that long ago might have been described as a respectful rivalry between two high school students angling for valedictorian, has deteriorated into something like the blind animosity that exists between every team in the NFC East and the Cowboys (Republicans are the Cowboys — seriously, fuck the Cowboys).
The football rivalry metaphor is especially pertinent (Fischer uses a baseball metaphor, but tomato, potato, you know?) because there isn't a whole lot of rhyme or reason for political partisanship. People often choose political parties early on, and then just stick with those parties for life (with exceptions, of course). Writes Fischer,
In any case, political scientists have long established that most Americans cannot reliably identify which specific policies each party supports, that people adopt party loyalties quite early in life, and that most stick to those loyalties whatever happens.
Couple this increasing aversion to interparty marriage with the fact that more Democrats and Republicans are segregating themselves by neighborhood, and we start to see that the fissure between the political parties is growing so wide and deep that it might soon be impossible to bridge...until Ralph Nader becomes president.
Really, would you let your daughter marry a Democrat? [The Atlantic]
The Polarizing Political Paradox Redux [Made in America]
Image via Christian Delbert/Shutterstock.