RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi, her emails, Donald Trump and the “perfect call,” January 6th and potentially the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago and Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“This is just sort of this tribalism that we live in these days where if we’re into politics we love to hear lousy things about our opponents and we will revel in any opportunity to do that,” said Marc Hetherington, a professor of Political Science at UNC-Chapel Hill.
These days congressional hearings rarely come without some level of theatrics. Anything to get the public’s attention. But does it work? And is it possible we’re becoming immune to it all?
“It’s not necessarily because of the investigations themselves, it’s because of polarization. Nobody really wants to give up on their side,” said Hetherington.
If you take the January 6th hearings for example, 20 million people watched the first hearing that aired in prime time and millions continued to do so throughout the summer. But Marc Hetherington said that audience was primarily from one side of the aisle.
“If the tables were turned and the investigations were about a democratic president or former democratic president, Democrats wouldn’t be tuning in and Republicans would be watching and cheering.”
Congressional investigations can be an important part of the democratic process. These days, though, bi-partisan hearings like Watergate are a relic of the past.
“I think it’s something we really have to grapple with. Why aren’t people able to put, say the last election, behind us? I think a big part of it is if there’s one thing that has changed is that partisans on one side absolutely hate the other side,” said Hetheringron. “There used to be a period when if you were on one side, you didn’t like the other side and you didn’t agree with them but you didn’t think they were monsters.”
Hetherington said now it’s kind of different.
“So, think about your regular life when you really just intensely like somebody. What are you willing to believe about that person that you intensely dislike? What would you be willing to go along with as it relates to that person? And that’s where we are in politics these days. We don’t even entertain, I think, the ideas the other side has these days. It’s a really upsetting sort of circumstance and it’s going to make it impossible to move beyond the latest kerfuffle,” said Hetherington.
“Whatever that kerfuffle might be,” he continued, “It’s really important in a democracy for us to respect the other side. We might disagree with them, but we at least have to respect them. Because you don’t listen to people who you don’t respect, and democracy requires us to listen and to compromise and to talk.”