People & Power

Divided Under Trump: The Strange Death of American Civility

We investigate how the toxic partisan divisions of the Trump era have eroded civil norms vital for US democracy.

Watch ‘Part 2: What does it mean to be American?’ above

Watch ‘Part 1: Democrats vs Republicans’ below

The United States seems more disunited than at any point in recent history – its politics so undermined by partisan divisions that consensus on almost anything is impossible to achieve.

Toxic partisanship between Democrats and Republicans – the nation’s two main parties – has soared under President Donald Trump‘s administration – worsening since the release of then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 elections that brought him to power.

The two parties are fundamentally split over race and identity. Race and identity is the core dividing line in American partisan politics today.

by Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the think-tank New America

But “Trump isn’t the cause of a lot of the discord that we’re seeing”, says Lilliana Mason, an author and professor at the University of Maryland.

“He probably makes it worse. But one of the things he has done is actually to bring out into the open these divides that have been accumulating between the parties.”

READ: The Disunited States: How partisan politics is polarising the US


The sorting of people into two camps has fuelled stereotyping and distrust. Too often, the allegiance to one’s own side makes the prospect of compromise with opponents almost unthinkable.

The US is now so polarised by the distrust that a 2018 survey recorded 70 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats as believing the opposing party posed a serious threat to the US.

“Each side is so convinced that they are absolutely correct, that they are morally and truly correct, and that the other side is dangerous,” Mason says.

So what has weakened the bonds that once held this huge democracy together – and where could the discord lead?

In a two part in-depth report, People & Power’s Bob Abeshouse investigates why the US is a nation so ill at ease with itself.

Part 1: Democrats vs Republicans