Pew on polarization
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It isn’t your imagination: Political polarization has risen sharply in recent years. The Pew Research Center confirmed it in a recent poll.

Interestingly, Pew’s survey shows no similar rise in polarization along racial, gender, or religious lines — only political affiliation. What seems to have happened is not a change in value systems but a sorting of those value systems into more ideologically cohesive political parties. Conservatives have become Republicans; liberals have become Democrats.

It’s not just self-identified partisans. Poll Watch notes that it’s happening to Independents as well: “Independents who say they lean — but are not committed to — either party have grown further apart from each other, particularly in their views on the role and effectiveness of government.”

This process — not any decline in “civility” or whatever — explains the passing of the supposed Golden Age of Bipartisanship. Cooperation across party lines used to be more possible because there were regional idiosyncrasies in the U.S., conservative Democrats in the South and liberal Republicans in the Northeast. Those idiosyncrasies are being ironed out and the parties are becoming more internally homogenous. What’s more, the process appears to be inexorable and irreversible. Polarization is the new normal.