A group of 15 senior social scientists have authored a short paper arguing that "political sectarianism," as they call it, is greatly endangering America:
Political sectarianism consists of three core ingredients: othering—the tendency to view opposing partisans as essentially different or alien to oneself; aversion—the tendency to dislike and distrust opposing partisans; and moralization—the tendency to view opposing partisans as iniquitous. It is the confluence of these ingredients that makes sectarianism so corrosive in the political sphere. Viewing opposing partisans as different, or even as dislikable or immoral, may not be problematic in isolation. But when all three converge, political losses can feel like existential threats that must be averted—whatever the cost.
The authors say there are three main causes of rising sectarianism. First, the parties really have become more different, in the sense that most of the conservatives are now Republicans, and most of the liberals are Democrats, etc. But:
As distinct as Democrats and Republicans actually are today, partisans nevertheless vastly overestimate such differences. They view opposing partisans as more socially distant, ideologically extreme, politically engaged, contemptuous, and uncooperative than is actually the case, thereby exacerbating political sectarianism. For example, Republicans estimate that 32% of Democrats are LGBT when in reality it is 6%; Democrats estimate that 38% of Republicans earn over $250,000 per year when in reality it is 2%.
Second, the rise of partisan media, but you have read enough about that lately. Third, "elite ideological polarization":
In contrast to the equivocal ideological-polarization trends among the public, politicians and other political elites have unambiguously polarized recently on ideological grounds, with Republican politicians moving further to the right than Democratic politicians have moved to the left.
Personally I find all of these points both debatable and inadequate to explain the extreme feelings that are driving riots and support for overturning the vote. The Republican and Democratic parties have moved farther apart on some issues, but the divide is still minor compared to, say, that between the Bolsheviks and the Whites, or the Royalists and the Jacobins.
But I do think what we are experiencing is dangerous. It encourages people to forget about democracy and pursue winning at all costs, and democracy can only take so much of that. Thomas Edsall put together a piece for the Times in which he solicited comments from the study's authors and put them together with other material, which I think is much stronger than the original; I suppose that had to be carefully compromised to get a diverse list of eminent signatories. Edsall samples some of the right-wing voices who have been most strident in rejecting the recent election, like this from a certain MakeLiberalsCryAgain:
It’s INSANE. Many of these contested states have REPUBLICAN majorities in their legislatures. They had the power all along to stop this, and they haven’t done blankety blank. They held hearings to give the appearance of caring, but in the end, they all cucked out like the spineless, traitorous cowards they are.
And dinosaurguy, who said, “War it is.”
Statements like that should be ominous for Americans because they sound so much like what we heard at the beginning of our Civil War, when Southern leaders all took the position that to accept Lincoln's election without a fight was cowardly and spineless. Well, they got their fight, and it was worse than any of them imagined. What will ours look like?