Blogs: Paul Pillar

The Latest on Non-Nefarious Iranian Behavior

Tribal Beliefs and American Political Parties

Paul Pillar

Polling repeatedly has demonstrated major party-based divisions in American perceptions even when the question is factual rather than asking for a value or a preference, and even when there is no obvious aspect of the demographics other than party identification that should lead to the beliefs involved. This is true, for example, of factual questions relating to climate change. Polling shows that self-identified Republicans and especially conservative Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to believe that the planet is warming up within our own lifetimes and that human activity is the major reason. This difference cannot be explained by the personal experiences of the respondents, and for the vast majority it cannot be explained by any careful looking at the relevant climate science. The different beliefs exist because prominent figures in the Democratic and Republican parties are saying different things on the subject and thus providing cues for their party adherents to follow.

It would be good for the republic if the current Trump-induced turmoil in the Republican Party did lead to a shake-up of the American political system in which that party as we know it today went the way of the Italian Christian Democrats—but with an outcome after the dust settles that is a better fit for the American body politic than the outcome in Italy (which has produced its own partial counterparts to Donald Trump in the persons of the tycoon/playboy Silvio Berlusconi and the entertainer/comedian Beppe Grillo). A good outcome for the United States would be one that yielded a responsible center-right party whose agenda corresponded more closely to the interests of its followers than the current Republican Party does and that would offer a principled and informed opposition to liberal programs rather than relying on obstructionism and obscurantism. Besides being good for the republic, for this political scientist the transition would be fascinating to watch. But it's probably not going to happen.  

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor to the National Interest. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

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Safeguarding Privacy, Inside and Outside Government

Paul Pillar

Polling repeatedly has demonstrated major party-based divisions in American perceptions even when the question is factual rather than asking for a value or a preference, and even when there is no obvious aspect of the demographics other than party identification that should lead to the beliefs involved. This is true, for example, of factual questions relating to climate change. Polling shows that self-identified Republicans and especially conservative Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to believe that the planet is warming up within our own lifetimes and that human activity is the major reason. This difference cannot be explained by the personal experiences of the respondents, and for the vast majority it cannot be explained by any careful looking at the relevant climate science. The different beliefs exist because prominent figures in the Democratic and Republican parties are saying different things on the subject and thus providing cues for their party adherents to follow.

It would be good for the republic if the current Trump-induced turmoil in the Republican Party did lead to a shake-up of the American political system in which that party as we know it today went the way of the Italian Christian Democrats—but with an outcome after the dust settles that is a better fit for the American body politic than the outcome in Italy (which has produced its own partial counterparts to Donald Trump in the persons of the tycoon/playboy Silvio Berlusconi and the entertainer/comedian Beppe Grillo). A good outcome for the United States would be one that yielded a responsible center-right party whose agenda corresponded more closely to the interests of its followers than the current Republican Party does and that would offer a principled and informed opposition to liberal programs rather than relying on obstructionism and obscurantism. Besides being good for the republic, for this political scientist the transition would be fascinating to watch. But it's probably not going to happen.  

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor to the National Interest. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

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Building on the Syrian Truce

Paul Pillar

Polling repeatedly has demonstrated major party-based divisions in American perceptions even when the question is factual rather than asking for a value or a preference, and even when there is no obvious aspect of the demographics other than party identification that should lead to the beliefs involved. This is true, for example, of factual questions relating to climate change. Polling shows that self-identified Republicans and especially conservative Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to believe that the planet is warming up within our own lifetimes and that human activity is the major reason. This difference cannot be explained by the personal experiences of the respondents, and for the vast majority it cannot be explained by any careful looking at the relevant climate science. The different beliefs exist because prominent figures in the Democratic and Republican parties are saying different things on the subject and thus providing cues for their party adherents to follow.

It would be good for the republic if the current Trump-induced turmoil in the Republican Party did lead to a shake-up of the American political system in which that party as we know it today went the way of the Italian Christian Democrats—but with an outcome after the dust settles that is a better fit for the American body politic than the outcome in Italy (which has produced its own partial counterparts to Donald Trump in the persons of the tycoon/playboy Silvio Berlusconi and the entertainer/comedian Beppe Grillo). A good outcome for the United States would be one that yielded a responsible center-right party whose agenda corresponded more closely to the interests of its followers than the current Republican Party does and that would offer a principled and informed opposition to liberal programs rather than relying on obstructionism and obscurantism. Besides being good for the republic, for this political scientist the transition would be fascinating to watch. But it's probably not going to happen.  

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor to the National Interest. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

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Foreign Policy and Presidential Politics as a Team Sport

Paul Pillar

Polling repeatedly has demonstrated major party-based divisions in American perceptions even when the question is factual rather than asking for a value or a preference, and even when there is no obvious aspect of the demographics other than party identification that should lead to the beliefs involved. This is true, for example, of factual questions relating to climate change. Polling shows that self-identified Republicans and especially conservative Republicans are much less likely than Democrats to believe that the planet is warming up within our own lifetimes and that human activity is the major reason. This difference cannot be explained by the personal experiences of the respondents, and for the vast majority it cannot be explained by any careful looking at the relevant climate science. The different beliefs exist because prominent figures in the Democratic and Republican parties are saying different things on the subject and thus providing cues for their party adherents to follow.

It would be good for the republic if the current Trump-induced turmoil in the Republican Party did lead to a shake-up of the American political system in which that party as we know it today went the way of the Italian Christian Democrats—but with an outcome after the dust settles that is a better fit for the American body politic than the outcome in Italy (which has produced its own partial counterparts to Donald Trump in the persons of the tycoon/playboy Silvio Berlusconi and the entertainer/comedian Beppe Grillo). A good outcome for the United States would be one that yielded a responsible center-right party whose agenda corresponded more closely to the interests of its followers than the current Republican Party does and that would offer a principled and informed opposition to liberal programs rather than relying on obstructionism and obscurantism. Besides being good for the republic, for this political scientist the transition would be fascinating to watch. But it's probably not going to happen.  

Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor to the National Interest. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a nonresident senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies.

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