I agree with the points about the internet magnifying people’s aggression toward unlike viewpoints.
However, it seems to me that American politics have gotten progressively more contentious over the last 10-15 years.
I readily admit that this opinion may just be the result of my getting older and having more politically related experiences.
I don’t think politics are any more contentious now than they were previously –
we tend to see the past through rose-colored glasses, but if you look back at the type of slurs tossed around by the newspapers and the politicians at the founding, I would think you might even decide things are less vitriolic now. At least no one has been beaten with a cane on the floor of the Senate in over 100 years…
Of course, Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner with a cane as a result of a familial conflict as opposed to a political conflict. Apparently, Sumner made a derogatory comment about Mr. Brooks’ cousin, Senator Andrew Butler. Granted, Senator Sumner’s insulting remarks were politically motivated (plus he mocked Butler’s physical handicap). It’s also interesting to note that Brooks was about 5’6, and Sumner was about 6’5, but I digress…
I am sure that politics has always been volatile among politicians. I also would hesitate to claim that politics are more contentious now than at any other time in the history of the United States. However, I believe that political discussion among regular Americans has become more contentious recently than they have been at any other time in my lifetime (since 1978).[/quote]
I dunno. That whole Red Scare thing was a pretty confrontational time for domestic politics. I’m also pretty sure the Civil War occasioned many harsh words among ordinary folks.
As I said, I think we’re looking at it through rose-colored glasses – and the level of conflict among ordinary people in verbal conversations in the past isn’t too well documented, but I don’t really believe we’ve become more contentious as a culture. Maybe more informed though…
Then again, maybe we’ve just funneled the passion that used to be put into religious disagreements into political disagreements.