Does “Party” Mean More than “Race” in Dividing America Today?

On February 17, 2017, Suzanne Fields, on, wrote a provocative op-ed column titled, “’Partyism’ Replaces Racism as the Great Divider.” She states: “Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein calls the political divide the result of “partyism,” which he describes as a visceral dislike of anyone of the opposing political party. In his new book, “#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media,” he says partyism is not as bad as racism, but by certain measures it exceeds racism in poisoning the national conversation. “In 1960,” he writes, citing public opinion polls, “just 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats said that they would feel ‘displeased’ if their child married outside their political party. By 2010, those numbers had reached 49 and 33 percent, respectively — far higher than the percentage of people who would be ‘displeased’ if their child married someone with a different skin color.” Suzanne Fields,, 2-17-17.

The anger exhibiting on our streets and in our civil discourse might suggest that “Partyism” has overtaken “Race” as America’s most hateful divider. I would hope that one could attribute that to the progress we have made in overcoming racial prejudice, but I fear it is more a result of our growing political division that impacts our country, our communities, and even our families. Few risk talking politics or elections over Thanksgiving dinner. Drumsticks might end up flying across the room.

I’m thankful that my wife and son share my political views, but what if they didn’t? I would hope we could find a way to listen and understand without extreme judgments. I have many in my faith family who do disagree. We know it, but we tend to avoid it. Is it important to have forums within our church where we can foster understanding and dialogue? If we are united in our faith and that is first in our list of priorities, I would hope that we could do so.

In May, we hope to try starting such dialogue at Monte Vista Presbyterian Church in Newbury Park. You may want to join us as we try to become catalysts for civil dialogue calling on the Holy Spirit to bring peace and a loving presence to those conversations.

Terry Paulson, PhD