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What matters?

By Christopher W. Larimer, University of Northern Iowa Professor of Political Science

Michael Tomasky’s column in Wednesday’s New York Times echoes a movie quote a good friend of mine likes to repeat concerning the political world: “it just doesn’t matter.” Put simply, for a sizeable portion of the electorate, political events, including the impeachment inquiry, have no effect.

To be sure, the impeachment process is important to voters, as Lynn Vavreck, John Sides, and Chris Tausanovitch show, but due to entrenched partisan identities, the outcome is unlikely to persuade voters to cross party lines. The reason, according to some, for this deepening and troubling “us versus them” mentality: social media.

But does this inelasticity and inability to reasonably disagree in a social media world represent a permanent shift?

On the one hand, the Internet is still relatively new, with social media still findings its footing as an information provider. So perhaps this is something we are still working through, like a son or daughter working through their teenage years--maybe we haven’t learned how to get along with the Internet.

On the other hand, it could be that there will be no maturation period, our tribal partisan mentalities are here to stay.

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