As we discuss on today's BradCast, our current days of political rage and divisiveness, now a very clear and present danger to the survival of American democracy itself, didn't come nowhere. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
But, first today, before we get to our burning country, a few news items on our burning globe. The U.N. warned on Friday that current pledges from the nations of the world to cut emissions will not be enough to stave off cataclysmic global warming by century's end. In California, meanwhile, we're seeing disaster play out already. The majestic, 3,000 year old giant trees of Sequoia National Park may not even make it through the weekend. The world's largest tree, a tourist favorite at the park known as General Sherman, and others like it are now literally being wrapped in tinfoil-like blankets as wildfires rage just about one mile from the historic and beloved grove as of airtime.
Of course, if we can't even get our own country to come together to fight against the clear and present existential threat of climate change, one wonders how hundreds of nations will be able to do so to save the planet. On the other hand, worsening political divisiveness --- and insanity --- in this country plays no small role in our failure to lead the world in that fight for humanity itself.
But how did the U.S. arrive at this harrowing political moment? One where more Republicans (75%) than Democrats (46%) believe democracy itself is under attack? Given that Republicans literally attacked the U.S. Capitol, the seat of American democracy, in a violent effort to prevent Congress from carrying out its most solemn, democratic Constitutional duty of certifying a Presidential election just months ago, there is no small irony in the new polling finding that it's those on the Right, even more than the Left, who have somehow been made to believe democracy is under attack.
Where would they get such a seemingly upside-down notion? "With every passing day, it looks less like we have one nation divided by differing political beliefs and more like we have two warring countries battling each other within shared borders," writes author David Rothkopf today in a lengthy, intriguing (and maddening) Twitter thread. "One side represents and seeks to preserve the United States. The other seeks to destroy it."
A fascinating, exhaustive, 6,000-word investigative essay published in this month's Mother Jones magazine on "The Real Source of America's Rising Rage", written by our guest today, longtime blogger KEVIN DRUM of Jabberwocking.com, looks at what the data reveal about the madness of this political moment and how and why we arrived at it.
"I started looking at when did this start? Because that's critical," Drum tells me on today's show. "When did people really start getting so angry? On a whole range of topics, the year 2000 --- give or take a few years --- kept coming up, over and over and over. And the most important way it came up, I thought, was if you take a look at trust in government. We all know that that's been going down --- people trust government less. But if you look at the data, it was pretty flat from about 1980 or so to 2000. And then, starting around 2000 or so, it started going down, down, down to only 20% who now say they have any trust in government, and it stayed there."
"What happened around the year 2000 that could have caused this?," he wondered, as he read through study after study. What happened since that time to cause such a sea change among Americans? Was it the rise and spread of conspiracy theories? Has social media or talk radio sent us over the edge? Or have things really gotten worse in America on the many grievances those on the Right often cite, such as crime, taxes, the economy, inequality, immigration or race?
After spending several years combing through data and theories, Drum finds, while some of those things certainly play a role, none of them are actually the poison that that has brought the nation to the seeming brink of political collapse. He explains how both data and history prove it, and how the real answer has been lying in plain sight for the past twenty years. It's the Fox 'News', stupid!
And, by the way, if Fox is the problem, what might be the solution? We discuss that a bit on today's enlightening program as well...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)