This chart from Pew Research shows an interesting contrast between the rise in political antipathy (or hatred) amongst conservatives and liberals. While both politically engaged and committed wings of the political spectrum pretty much hate their opposites, like Spy vs. Spy, the level of irrational and extreme anger is much higher on the conservative side, where, as Pew notes, the hatred of Barack Obama on the right seems to have been a kneejerk (or racist) form of payback for the deep hatred so many liberals (and Americans in general) had for George W. Bush. The now traditional association with maniac rage and serious political engagement on the right has created a now out-of-control extremist insurgency in the Republican Party, ready to sink the nation, and destroy its own leadership in Congress, in search of ideological heaven.
The chart is entitled “The Growing Link between Ideology and Partisan Antipathy”, and what it shows is that, since 1994, rage amongst conservatives against Democrats has skyrocketed, especially among ideologically “consistent” conservatives. On the other hand, while anger against conservatives has increased amongst liberals in the same period, the rise is neither as extreme, nor as consistent, even among liberals reporting themselves as “consistently liberal.”
In fact, that is one of the more interesting parts of the difference shown between conservatives and liberals. Whereas conservative rage against Democrats has risen rapidly over the last twenty years, no matter who was president of the United States, liberal dislike of conservatives has fallen during both terms of Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Is that because liberals are more tolerant and inclined to compromise with the enemy when they have Executive power? Or is it because Democratic presidents face more numerous and virulent partisan attacks, and move to the right in response to this, thus encouraging a more bipartisan attitude amongst Democrats?
However that may be, the most striking part of this chart is the steep increase of dislike of conservatives, which occurred amongst “consistently liberal” respondents, during the presidency of George W. Bush. Whereas, before Dubya, partisan anger was an identifying symptom of conservatives, Bush inspired intense polarization during his time in office, with the most committed liberals coming to the belief—now held by a growing number of all Americans—that Bush and his regime partners were war criminals.
The intense liberal hatred of Bush, which grew to a national dislike of the man who had at one point, after 9/11, held an almost 95% approval rating, was matched by an even greater, and far more irrational, anger on the part of conservatives, who fought back against the liberal attacks. Defending Bush and his policies, most of which turned out to be national disasters, demanded that partisan conservatives begin practicing a religious form of fact-avoidance, that avowed the rightness of positions which had been demonstrably discredited, often in the bloodiest and most horrible ways.
Nevertheless, because the faith-based nature of conservative political thought (or passions) has become so widespread, and because the intensity of the conservative rage against Democrats has once again spiked upward during the Obama presidency, the extreme disconnect between the GOP and the American mainstream has gotten even larger.
Now the political polarization is even destroying the Republican Party itself—as conservative extremists eliminate what used to pass for hard-right conservative leaders in the GOP.
No state is likely to survive such an extended period of extreme political division, as it shall either descend into civil war, as has happened in the United States before, or it shall be “stabilized” by anti-democratic means, as has been the regular fate of factious democracies throughout history.