Shed a Fear over Division

September 16, 2021

According to a new survey by Scott Rasmussen, more Democrats thought Donald Trump supporters (57 percent) and unvaccinated Americans (56 percent) posed serious threats than any other groups, even foreign adversaries like the Taliban (44 percent), China (44 percent), or Russia (37 percent). The survey of registered voters conducted on September 8 asked respondents to indicate which groups they believed constituted a serious threat to the nation.

Meanwhile, Republicans were most likely to consider the Taliban (66 percent), China (58 percent), and Defund the Police activists (62 percent) as serious threats. Voters who belonged to neither party were most likely to identify the same three top threats as Republicans -- the Taliban (46 percent), China (45 percent), and Defund the Police activists (36 percent) -- though to a lesser extent.

These results show partisan polarization is "intensifying" in America, said Rasmussen, and we are returning to "the same kind of dynamic" as 1968. The break between left and right is accelerating. Since the 2016 election, many Americans have lost friends over politics; persuasion is not just impossible, but virtually unimaginable. The anti-social behaviors of the past 18 months (lockdowns, masks, "social distancing") have taken their toll. Black-and-white oversimplifications lead many to assume others' political leanings and moral worth based on superficial or trivial decisions. Riots have boosted fears.

That's what drives it all: fear.

When the coronavirus pandemic first broke, "people treated it like it was a death sentence," said Rasmussen. Now that we have four effective vaccines and a dozen effective treatments, "Republicans and independents tend to say, 'If I get it, I'll get over it pretty quickly.'" Heart disease is still killing more Americans than the coronavirus. Although, Rasmussen pointed out, "if you're in the hospital [with COVID], it's probably because you weren't vaccinated. So you're bringing this on yourself."

Meanwhile, Democratic opinion-setters, led by the president himself, still pitch about in a quagmire of their own making, fixing their increasingly irrational fear -- and ire -- on the unvaccinated as potential pathogen spreaders. "I think we have to stop coddling people" who refuse the vaccine, said CNN host Don Lemon last night. He rebuked people saying, "'Oh, you can't shame them. You can't call them stupid. You can't call them silly.' Yes, they are."

While on the subject, it's impossible to ignore the culpability of CNN, Fox News, Facebook, and all the partisan media of both sides build their business on fear. Our partisan media have turned modern American politics into fear games. Fear of Hillary Clinton elected Donald Trump, and fear of Donald Trump elected Joe Biden. In Rasmussen's survey, for every single group tested, independent voters considered a serious threat less than the national average, showing that partisans are on average more fearful.

Political division can lead to violence, Rasmussen warned. "Politicians have to make bigger and stronger promises to get out their base. But they don't have the ability to deliver." Electoral margins become slimmer, and compromise becomes impossible. Quoting political scientist Aaron Wildavsky, Rasmussen said the "simple recipe for violence" is "promise people a lot and do nothing." So when will someone stand back from the brink?

Christians should lead the way in seeking peace, although not as the world does it. Quench your fears by sticking your head in the Word, not the sand. As the Lord instructed Isaiah, "Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread" (Isaiah 8:12 ESV).