Alternate Realities

If we needed a reminder that today’s Republicans and Democrats occupy very different realities, Pew recently provided it.

The Pew Research Center fielded one of its periodic surveys, asking Americans to identify the issues facing the country that they considered most pressing. A majority of Democrats identified gun violence, health care affordability, the coronavirus outbreak and racism as very big problems facing the country today. Each of those issues was identified by two-thirds or more of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

But far fewer Republicans saw these issues as major problems.  The closest they came was the four-in-ten Republicans who did identify health care affordability; approximately two-in-ten rated the coronavirus and gun violence as big problems.

The extent to which climate change and economic inequality are viewed as very big problems is similarly split along partisan lines. About six-in-ten Democrats say each of these are very big problems, while just 21% of Republicans say economic inequality is a very big problem and even fewer (14%) say this about climate change.

By contrast, illegal immigration and the federal budget deficit are the top problems identified by Republicans. About seven-in-ten say both of these are very big problems for the country. Only about three-in-ten Democrats identify these issues as very big problems

It isn’t hard to see the influence of partisanship in these responses. Pew reports that Republicans today are 40 percentage points more likely than Democrats to say the deficit is a very big problem, a finding that–among other things– is in stark contrast to the numbers who said so during the Trump Administration, when there wasn’t a partisan split on that issue. Evidently, deficits incurred when Republican Presidents cut taxes on the wealthy aren’t as worrisome as deficits caused by Democratic Presidents spending on pandemic relief and infrastructure.

It is stating the obvious to say that government cannot solve a problem it fails to properly diagnose. We have evidently reached a point in our political lives where Americans refuse to see problems that are at all inconsistent with their political identities–so people who embrace so-called “Second Amendment” liberties don’t see the steady toll of mass shootings (not to mention the consistent loss of life attributable to suicide by gun) as a big problem.

What is truly difficult to understand is the survey’s finding that only 14% of Republicans identify climate change as a problem. This, in the face of dramatic increases in damaging weather events, out-of-control fires attributable to unusually severe droughts, rising sea levels and other evidence that is widely reported and just as widely attributed to climate change– and that increasingly affects the daily lives of ordinary Americans.

The fact that members of the GOP don’t consider income inequality a problem is more understandable, if equally unforgivable. After all, Republican policy preferences have caused that inequality.

It also isn’t surprising that Republicans named immigration as a “big problem.” For many of them, immigration these days equates to the entry of people of color, hastening the time when White Americans are no longer in the majority. Democrats who consider immigration a problem generally define the problem differently; for them, the problem is a dysfunctional system that takes far too long, is difficult to administer, and is unfair to categories of would-be immigrants.

The Pew survey illustrates what most observers already know: Republicans and Democrats no longer simply disagree about the policies needed to solve our problems. They occupy different realities, in which the identity and severity of the nation’s problems are starkly different.

No wonder our political system is gridlocked.


  1. Let’s also be honest about the problem, though. We don’t live in “different realities.” The Democratic Party, while imperfect, lives in the real world and the Republican Party has created a false world to keep its base deluded into voting against their own interests.

  2. Understanding behavior is not the same as condoning it. The sides are not equal in their morality, and thus for some of us, the behavior of the GOP on the issues cited here is indeed unforgivable.

  3. In the political theater, myself, I believe would be considered socially liberal. And probably, concerning religious beliefs, authentically resolute, a scriptural originalist which puts me at odds with almost everyone on both sides. But there’s more than just a couple of folks out there in the ethos I reside in.

    It’s taken a long time, a very very long time, for the right to become as jaded as they are!

    The right has been cultivated by the putative ne’er-do-wells who use fear to mold their subservient antithetical base to an unyielding stone wall incapable of compromise but very capable of immense hypocrisy! The Supreme Court and court packing are a prime example! We all saw what happened with Barack Obama and Trump appointees to the Supreme Court and the federal bench across the country. It somehow is ordained to be righteous when the right engages in extreme partisanship, but, communistic or socialistic if the left makes a peep about equality of the rules!

    I find it fascinating that the right seems to proclaim themselves righteous! And yet, they despise anyone with opposing viewpoints, opposing religious beliefs, or really any beliefs steeped in actual reality. As Sheila brings out gun violence, climate change, immigration, healthcare, pay and financial equity along ethnic and gender based belief lines.

    As mentioned earlier, Republicans, conservative self identified, like to see themselves as morally stalwart and religiously righteous.

    Too bad, Jesus Christ was such a socialist leaning figure. The desire and infatuation with acquiring wealth, to keep their wealth above everything else, is un-Christlike. Their disdain for others unlike themselves, whether racially, religiously, ethnically, or any particular belief, is very obvious for everyone to see and is also very un-Christlike. Their desire to prevent individuals healthcare is un-Christlike. Their desire to judge their fellow man through a faulty lens, a jaded lens, is also on Christlike. To not have concern for their fellow man including education, concerning shelter, concerning food and the right to all of these things is un-Christlike! And let’s not forget to be proper stewards of this planet, this includes science, scientific evidence, and a concern for every living creature on this planet, this would entail conducting oneself in a reality that Christ himself resided in, one that is actually merciful, compassionate, empathetic, loving, and concerned.

    Love your neighbor as you love yourself, and love your enemy! Matthew 22:37-39; or love your enemy Luke 6: 27, 28; Exodus 23:4-5; Romans 12:20; Matthew 5:43-44!

    As the apostle Paul stated in his letter to the congregation in colossi, he stated “clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union” Colossians 3:14.

    We don’t see this from the right, mostly we see this from those who are liberal minded, and that tells you, that Christ was a liberal minded individual and so were his apostles and those disciples especially in the early days.

    So, why are there so many who follow hypocrites? Why are there so many who are self-proclaimed patriots? Why are there so many who are self proclaimed followers of Christ, but, prove false to his power?

    “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; and when he is caused to stumble, may your heart not be joyful.” (Proverbs 24:17) (Matthew 5:44)

  4. A wonderful stew begins with nutritious ingredients that pair well to render incredible flavor. Politics is sometimes like making stew with stale leftovers with maybe a few really good ingredients. No matter how much you stir, it never ends well.

  5. We have always preferred the easy answer. The answers are generally pretty easy to say, but really hard to put into place. Politics used to be the art of the possible. Now it seems to be the practice of dysfunction in a land where nothing is possible, thanks to Mitch McConnell.

  6. What’s really odd is while I agree with the stark realities of the two life views, the right believes that liberals or liberalism has destroyed this country. Liberals are evil and have destroyed their schools and the government, and well, pretty much all of society.

    This is why the “stop the steal” effort brought together the funders, organizers, and the boots on the ground to attempt a coup on our Capitol. They honestly believed the election was stolen from Trump by corrupt liberals.

    However, the action by our IC and MIC seems quite jumbled. The FBI is lying. The MIC didn’t bring in helicopters like they did when BLM had a peaceful protest in Washington. In Portland and other cities, the MIC used advanced military spy planes against the peaceful protestors.

    We’ve also learned that communications between organizers and Republican lawmakers took place before 1/6. Maps were exchanged of the Capitol.

    However, the prosecutors seem stymied on this ordeal. Pelosi and Blinken have defended Republican lawmakers claiming “We need a strong Republican Party.”

    So, if all these “Washington Liberals are the enemy of the people,” why aren’t they holding the insurrectionists accountable for their actions? Why are our IC and MIC soft on neofascists surrounding Trump?

    Personally, I’m calling bullshit on the whole charade at this point. It epitomizes the whole political theater we see in Washington and across the country. Kamala Harris fist-bumping Ted Cruz. Feinstein hugging Lindsey Graham. There seems to be B-rated production going on in Washington, including the media and celebrities.

    It’s beginning to look like the Wizard of Oz at the end of the movie, where we see it was all a grand production. A peek behind the curtain before we realized it was also a dream.

  7. If you look for division, there is plenty of it. Yacking about it won’t change it. How about if we examine the concerns we share – what a concept? As Pew shows, these are pretty common concerns across the divide:

    – Affordability of healthcare
    – Unemployment
    – Quality of public schools
    – Violent crime

    Which Party is smart enough to run on fixing these? Betcha it won’t be the DEMS. The House and Senate are in the GOP sights for 2022 and they have an excellent chance. The media will focus on their extreme candidates, but most will run on the above.

    Get smart DEMS and realize you need a bigger vision.

  8. “What is truly difficult to understand is the survey’s finding that only 14% of Republicans identify climate change as a problem. This, in the face of dramatic increases in damaging weather events, out-of-control fires attributable to unusually severe droughts, rising sea levels and other evidence that is widely reported and just as widely attributed to climate change…”

    I know this is a widely-accepted premise – that we’re having more severe weather events – but does the data – the science – really back this up? First, one has to be aware of perception being set by more widespread reporting of severe weather events. Now with 24/7 cable news, every severe weather event gets widespread coverage because it makes good TV. That can lead to the misperception that we’re having more of these severe weather events than we used to.

    Second, it’s really hard to get good data on number and severity of events. Most of the data out there measuring extreme weather events originates with advocacy groups that are pursuing a political goal – usually, but not always – that climate change is causing extreme weather events. But when you look hard for unbiased, scientific data, it doesn’t necessarily support the “more extreme weather argument.”

    For example, I wrote a few years ago about a climatologist who did a 100 year study of Atlantic hurricanes believing it would show that the number of hurricanes is increasing. Much to his chagrin, his study proved otherwise. Well you still have the problem of more damage caused by these hurricanes right? Well, to conclude that you have to tease out of the data inflation and the increased construction of homes in deltas and floodplanes that used to provide a buffer that lessened the impact of hurricanes. In Southern Florida, they’re constructing homes in the Everglades and then engaging in “water management” to keep the homes from being flooded. There has to be a place for to go.

    Also, there is government data out there that show we’ve of late having a record low number of tornadoes. (I’m not going to hijack Sheila’s column – at least too much by getting into the details.) The number of tornadoes are not increasing.

    Well what about increased droughts? This graph in this EPA article – which acknowledges climate change – says otherwise. As far as forest fires, I’m not sure we’re having more of them. Haven’t seen the data to back that up. But one thing Trump was right about (although he said it in a very inarticulate way), there is a big problem with forest management, chiefly by the federal government.

    Unfortunately the issue of climate change has been politicized by the right and left, but primarily by the left. Remember when the left said – correctly – that weather events do not prove climate? The left quickly forgets that when they have weather events they want to exploit.

    Let the abuse for my position begin.

  9. i believe the parties (2) agenda now dictates the politician hired..the silos are full of subjects that make one line voting over the needed issues.for the uninformed, how the system must work in tandem,doesnt exist anymore. we see above and recognize the issues here, and the voting masse today doesn’t practice democracy,its a willy nilly world of opinions and not facts,or how the system works. overlook will see that the parties now select on the rant they want to project ,while leaving the end game behind closed dooors. obviously the republiqans are a new party,far unrelated to the system prior to king george the first. (bush 1) follow up with right wing slant and news via murdoch’s wonder empire,( now newsmax has their own sunday worship news) (pillow guy is in his own little world now) add the social influence media, ya get what we have today. of course the limo demos have the decades as dinosaurs of the status quo,,with a little salt (or pot) given to the masses to enjoy. we here understand the changes needed,and to advance the nation as a whole to a better tommarow. now if we could get a few to understand how the present system works.. we must dislodge the lodgers who boarded up the windows and rolled up the sidewalks, because America’s political system is closed!

  10. Paul:
    we’re planting in NoDak,with a severe drought underway. this time the bailout will be through the Biden admin.. of course there will be no mention of climate change,as the money rains down..

  11. Paul, I’m not sure using the EPA’s website is the most independent predictor of global climate change since we are one of the worst offenders and Trump invited the industry to rewrite the pages on the website. Last I checked, both political parties are major benefactors of the polluting industry donations. We suffer from major corruption in this country.

    I suggest taking a world or global perspective:

  12. President Abraham Lincoln so wisely said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Yet we are watching today as the Republican party which is divided against itself is standing strong against the slim majority of Democrats. There is the possible reality they will succeed in avoiding any action to undo the “Alternative Realities” they created seeking personal profits by believing installing their pseudo-Republican “businessman” in the White House by sitting mute and idle.

    Peggy is correct with her statement that politics currently is “the practice of dysfunction in a land where nothing is possible, thanks to Mitch McConnell.” We are currently in the Alternative Reality of half of Congress doing nothing while hauling in millions in donations for their party with the minority leader still leading.

    And as Sheila state; “No wonder our political system is gridlocked.”

  13. Wayne B. Be careful of what you wish for. If the fairness doctrine were resurrected, any time a scientist was scheduled to be on a program, it is likely that dozens of crackpots would demand to appear also. Conjectures based on nothing more than opinions would be broadcast along with the comments of someone who has done some work and is reporting on the results.

    It would be a zoo.

  14. Paul, let’s say that you are a tractor-trailer driver and you get to the top of a notably long downslope and, as advised by signs, you test your brakes and find that you have none. I’ll bet you wouldn’t say, I’ll worry about that at the bottom of the hill. You would find a spot before the hill to address the problem and, if possible, to fix it.

    How many decades, if we make a globally concerted effort, do you think it will take us to stop adding to the atmospheric collection of fossil fuel waste we have accumulated in the atmosphere?

    If you add several decades to that for the consequences of the accumulated waste to work through positive feedbacks, and weather and sea level and ocean chemistry to restabilize, you might be close to reality. My guess the bottom of the hill is a century away for the entire worsening process to wind down to reliably predictable reality on earth again. I could well be unrealistically optimistic by a century or two.

    That’s going to require a great deal of civilization rebuilding at the same time that the human population peaks at 10-11B mouths to feed and house and transport and provide for.

    We have already passed up all opportunities to avoid the problem but we still have some left to mitigate the most costly consequences.

    Starting down the hill and hoping for a miracle are very long odds for little problems but for betting on the quality of life for the maximum number of humans who will ever be on earth they are unthinkable.

  15. Republicans are built to be the way they are.

    With a cerebral cortex dominated by an overdeveloped amygdala, the main street right winger is driven by fear and disgust, and he is unable to think beyond his training. Being one of the less gifted ones, he has been raised on respect for authority, fear of the other, and faith in his almighty Lord. He is easily motivated by outside threats and internal disorder.

    The Bosses, whom he trusts, will tell him whom to hate and what is right, and those Bosses, ultimately the oligarchs who run things, are psychopaths.

  16. For a results only view such as the one I hold I think this argument that we don’t speak the same language with Republicans or talk in terms of perspectives held on the issues when we don’t even agree on what the issues are is questionable. The ultimate question from my perspective is not how we disagree or misunderstand but rather what the result is of the exercise of political power or compromise (if any) between the warring factions.

    Thus we have seen the humongous Trump-Ryan tax cut by a December 2017 lame duck Congress the month before Democrats took over the House, a 1.5 or 1.9 trillion dollar (take your pick) giveaway 83% of which went to the rich and corporate class for their stock buybacks, capital gains bonanzas and executive compensation, all via deficit financing. The resulting theft of public funds had little to do with “perspectives” and other such lingual niceties; it had to do with greed and the exercise of raw and brute political power.

    I am a Keynesian and not against tax cuts when in recession (depending on who is to benefit from such cuts) but at this pre-pandemic time in late 2017 we were not yet in an economic downturn and such trickle down “perspectives” were not on the table by any Keynesian or other rational standard. After gobbling up their enormous gifts from the Trump-Ryan goodie bag and now that we have barely escaped another Great Depression via Biden’s Keynesian tactics (which required and still requires deficit financing to put money into the hands of the people and businesses), Republicans are suddenly concerned with Biden’s deficit financing of restoration of our battered economy and have become (selectively) deficit hawks.

    The Republican “perspective”? Giving trickle down money away that trickles up via deficit financing to those who don’t need it and deprive the people and businesses of money who do need it even at the risk of another Great Depression is A-OK. Add hypocrisy to their choice of perspectives and tell me how such choice enhances the common good. I’m waiting.

  17. Perhaps the quality rather than the quantity of weather events should be taken into consideration in any discussion of climate change and the likelihood of humans contributing to the changes.
    The dramatic rise in population within the last hundred or so years, concentrated in less and less habitable space also should be considered. “During the 20th century, the global population saw its greatest increase in known history, rising from about 1.6 billion in 1900 to over 6 billion in 2000.”…Wikipedia
    The more people, the more consumption and the more waste will continue to play a significant role in climate change all over the world. To say otherwise is to contradict the practices of any knowledgeable farmer/rancher who raises animals. Overstocking the land depletes the food source, pollutes the available potable water, fouls the air. How many times do we have to make the same mistakes for short term gain before we learn that it is self-destructive and potentially deadly to the world we hope to inhabit?

  18. Pascal, and Eric, “selective perceptions,” and “false world” do, indeed, amount to “different realities.” For years Faux News, and then with Trump and his “alternate facts” piggybacking on it, pried open what was once a much smaller perceptual gap, and made it into a cultural abyss.

  19. Paul,

    I agree, climate change is not weather! The climate is changing, the warmest years on the planet have been in the last decade. At least as far back as recorded history would say.

    But yes there have been more hurricanes in specific years and more tornadoes in a specific epoch of time, but the steady warming of the climate will eventually reach a tipping point to where there can be no reversal. The droughts will be more intense, the tornadoes stronger, the hurricanes bigger and more powerful, water shortages more prevalent!

    Then, it just breaks! Now you have a dystopian existence where governments wanting to survive, will initiate conflicts for withering resources. It just will not turn out well at all.

    Of course, a government with foresight, could make sure the country is drought proofed by desalinization plants along the coastal regions, maybe rerouting the billions of gallons of fresh water dumped into the ocean every day courtesy of the Mississippi river. The water could be rerouted and reservoirs refilled out west and other regions of the country.

    Between desalinization plants and rerouting one of the largest rivers in the world, this particular country could be greener than Ireland! Sounds like a good infrastructure proposal to me!

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