What's new is that it now the only story.
- Bill Moyers, "The Soul of Democracy," in Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times (2005)
Political scientists have documented a link between polarized politics and rising economic inequality. The ever-increasing wealth gap and ever-sharpening partisan divisions go hand in hand. Over the past century, the two trends have moved up and down together.
“...nationalize the elections, mobilize the hatred for Congress nationally, and intensify it, and make Congress look so bad to people that they will think, ‘Anyone is better than what we’ve got now.’”
In Gingrich’s mind, the conflict was literally to be a civil war. “This war has to be fought with a scale and a duration and a savagery that is only true of civil wars,” Gingrich caustically declared in 1988.
The Tea Party looked like a populist movement, but when its profile emerged, it was not a movement of average Americans. The 18 percent who identified themselves in polls as Tea Party followers were predominantly white, male, older, more college-educated, and better off economically than typical Americans, and 63 percent chose Fox News as their primary news source. They were far to the right of average Americans, identifying themselves as “very conservative” and always or usually voting Republican. Some 92 percent wanted smaller government (vs. 50 percent of Americans overall); 73 percent said they would favor cutting domestic programs, including Social Security, Medicare, education, and defense; and while most Americans (by 50 to 42 percent) favored government spending to create jobs, Tea Party supporters were 5 to 1 against that policy. They cared far less about jobs than cutting government and the deficit.