Extreme partisanship threatens democracy. We can solve this problem.

In response to a recent poll showing that roughly 40% of Americans believe a civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next 10 years — a figure that jumps to more than half among those who identify as “strong Republicans” — one Chinese diplomat tweeted that the survey suggests that “the day has come when the United States, which has been disguised as a fake democracy, will be stripped of its mask by its own people.”

Extreme polarization in the United States has long served as fodder for our foreign adversaries, but, despite their best efforts, foreign propagandists can take little credit for our internal divisions. I should know. For the past five years, I’ve run a program that monitors and exposes Russian, Chinese and Iranian disinformation campaigns whose implicit if not explicit goal is to weaken the United States.

In that time, what has become painfully obvious is that those most responsible for convincing Americans that our partisanship is so entrenched that it may eventually devolve into bloodshed are not those tasked with destroying America but, in many cases, those who were elected to defend it.

Take Wisconsin’s senior senator, Ron Johnson, a fixture on conservative cable news outlets who continues to cast doubt on the validity of the 2020 election and has framed the upcoming midterms as a choice between “radical left socialism” and “freedom.” In years past, it would be easy to dismiss such language as political hyperbole — politicians have always attached outsized stakes to elections — but in the aftermath of Jan 6, 2021, it is irresponsible not to consider the response of supporters who interpret those words quite literally.

Johnson’s rhetoric is hardly isolated — in Wisconsin or nationwide. According to data collected by our newly launched Midterm Monitor, which tracks the social media posts of political candidates and influential media outlets, in the past two months alone, more than 25 congressional candidates have referenced the potential for a civil war or secession in the United States.

"Too much in our country is not normal," President Joe Biden says on Sept. 1, 2022, in a 24-minute speech outside Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic."

But lest anyone think this is only a “MAGA-Republican” problem, as President Joe Biden recently framed it, our research shows that Democrats are nearly twice as likely as their Republican counterparts to mention the possibility of a civil conflict or political violence on Twitter. This includes Democratic candidates who have promoted content suggesting Republicans are “fascists” who are “willing to kill people who disagree with them” or those who have claimed that their election is required to help “stop a civil war.”

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Written by Politixia

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