Turn on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News and chances are you will see staunchly partisan Democrats and Republicans engaged in heated verbal pugilism.

A relevant example of this sort of behavior passing as political dialogue occurred on Sunday when Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus discussed the coming midterm election. Wasserman Schultz rhetorically accused the Republican Party and its loosely affiliated tea party wing of ISIS-brand extremism.

On October 15 National Public Radio ran a piece covering a report titled Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization co-authored by Shanto Iyengar of Stanford University and Sean J. Westwood of Princeton University. According to Lyengar and Westwood, unlike “race, gender and other social divides where group-related attitudes and behaviors are constrained by social norms… there are no corresponding pressures to temper disapproval of political opponents.”

The authors observe this behavior is not only now acceptable, it is often encouraged and regarded as preferable. It is appropriate to “express animus and engage in discriminatory behavior toward opposing partisans.”

The artificial political divide devised and enforced by the state and relentlessly pushed by its corporate media propaganda machine now affects all facets of social life, from the composition of neighborhoods to marriage. “Actual marriage across party lines is rare,” the report notes. “In a 2009 survey of married couples, only nine percent consisted of Democrat-Republican pairs.”

Ryan McMaken, writing for Mises Daily, expands on the report by noting how government shapes the political environment. “In a society where a government is weak, decentralized, and unable to enact the more radical wishes of any majority group, a losing side is less likely to regard the winning side as a genuine threat to one’s daily life. Winning or losing elections remains important, but is not considered to be determinant of the losing side’s ability to keep one’s property, livelihood, and way of life relatively safe from the winners. On the other hand, if a state is very powerful, and the winning side is able to regulate, tax, and coerce in an ever more heavy-handed fashion, the stakes of each election are very high indeed,” he writes.

America is now experiencing the latter as the recent IRS political scandal vividly demonstrates. The Obama administration used the taxation agency to punish and marginalize the tea party, a political opposition it determined posed a serious threat, unlike the mainstream Republican party that remains argumentative within accepted parameters instituted and enforced by the establishment.

Democrats in particular have built an industry around “hit piece journalism” designed to sully the reputations and diminish the political capital of their enemies. Characterized by radio personality Rush Limbaugh as “drive-by journalism,” Democrat operatives and their supporters excel at misrepresentation, cheap shots and innuendo. Republicans also engage in this sort of behavior, as the legacy of Karl Rove and his dirty tricks and Fox News histrionics reveal.

McMaken states the obvious, at least for those of us outside the political mainstream. For the upper echelon of the inner party, where there is little substantial difference between Democrat and Republican, the animosity is far less pronounced and, when expressed, is primarily for theatrical effect.

“Now, many keen observers of politics will note that there’s indeed precious little difference, in the big scheme of things, between the political parties,” McMaken writes. “Anyone who’s paying attention can see that party elites get along fine while most of the rancor can be found among the naive rank and file. There’s a reason for this. Regardless of who wins, virtually nothing will be contemplated that might lead to meaningful reductions in regulation, taxation, or the punitive excesses of the criminal justice system. The larger trend in the growth of the state overwhelms any tiny adjustments that DC is willing to make in the present political climate.”

In other words, the battle is designed to divide and conquer the rabble while the political elite continue the political and economic agenda at hand. This process was summarized by insider Carroll Quigley, who wrote:

“The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers.”

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