John R. Hibbing is the author of “The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump’s Base and Why It Matters in the Post-Trump Era.” The views expressed in this commentary are their own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)In his August 20 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden said that “there is only one way forward. As a united America … United in our dreams of a better future for us and for our children.” He later asserted that, fortunately, we are indeed “united in our love of America and united in our love for each other.”

John R. HibbingJohn R. HibbingJohn R. HibbingSuch pleas for and assertions of American unity are de rigueur among politicians, who often tell us that deep down, the American people all have the same basic values and needs.In “The Audacity of Hope,” former President Barack Obama considers but then quickly rejects the argument against American unity: “Maybe there is no escaping our great political divide … but I don’t think so.” Even President Donald Trump, frequently a divisive force in American culture, voiced a similar refrain: “our country will be united … We should all want the same thing.” Yearning for unity is perfectly understandable. The idea that all Americans are cut from the same cloth is seductive and comforting. And a politician trumpeting that America is made up of two hoary, warring factions with opposing sets of objectives would probably be committing political suicide. But are Americans really united in their love for each other? In the midst of a divisive 2020 presidential campaign, that description hardly seems apt. Americans’ predispositions about the best way to structure and conduct social life are as distinct as could be. Read MoreMany liberals think Trump supporters have been duped by Fox News, OANN and persuasive evangelical pastors. Meanwhile, many Trump supporters think liberals have been duped by the mainstream media, Hollywood and university professors. Fractured America got together on this issue. And it could point the way for moreFractured America got together on this issue. And it could point the way for moreFractured America got together on this issue. And it could point the way for moreThe belief seems to be that if those on the other side were merely exposed to accurate information or would take more time to reflect, they would see the error of their ways. However, more and more research provides evidence that political differences, far from being information-based and malleable, are attached to surprisingly stable psychological, physiological and possibly even genetic dispositions. Of course, at a rudimentary level, everyone prefers peace, health and prosperity over war, pestilence and poverty. But when it comes to the meaningful values that shape visions of the best society, agreement is often nowhere to be found. Though my circle of acquaintances is unashamedly left leaning, I spent the past two years immersed in the mindsets of hard core Trump supporters. On the basis of this experience, I am convinced that the country contains two decidedly different groups — and that the issue dividing them is how “outsiders” should be treated. As I am using the term, outsiders are not merely people who live outside the country, but also those already inside the country who, because of religion, race, history, language, sexual preference, culture or politics, do not strengthen the status and position of what Trump supporters perceive to be the nation’s core insiders. On one side of the primal political divide are those who believe society’s most important task is to defend against these outsiders; on the other side are those who believe society’s most important task is to embrace outsiders. Put differently, on one side are those who want to do everything possible to prioritize insider uniformity and security in the face of outsiders (Donald Trump could be their captain). They are opposed by those who believe insider power, perhaps in the form of corporations and a predominantly White power structure, is itself the main threat to a healthy society (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders could be their captain). Ken Burns: The secret to bridging political dividesKen Burns: The secret to bridging political dividesKen Burns: The secret to bridging political dividesDisputes over capital gains taxes, residential zoning, tuition costs, alternative energy, morning-after pills and gay adoptions are undeniably important, but the conflict over the treatment of outsiders is evolutionarily central, dating back to the hundreds of thousands of years that humans spent in hunter-gatherer bands. These bands of 50-150 people did not have much in the way of governments so, unlike today, there was virtually no debate about what government should and should not do. On the other hand, they did have neighboring bands and norm violators so, similar to today, debates concerning what to do about outsiders were constant.The primordial nature of disputes over orientations to outsiders is the reason that, whenever the most salient issues of an era are groups and identities, insiders and outsiders, politics will be particularly bitter and even bloody. This was the case in the 1960s, when protesters challenged the hegemony of insiders, including the police, the defense establishment and middle class White America. And it is the case today. Pining for an America in which people have such similar values that they can be badgered into a nirvana-like consensus has yielded only animosity and frustration. Better to accept the inevitability of our divisions so that we can then contemplate how to construct a functioning society in the face of unavoidable ideological conflict. I suggest we start by placing less faith in deliberative processes. Though helpful if people are not deeply committed to one side or the other, when people are firmly attached to opposite sides, deliberation is as painful as it is ineffective. Those asserting that we just need to talk to each other more are wrong. The problem is not that the two sides do not talk to each other enough; it is that the two sides are entirely incapable of talking to each other. Trump took the country for a spin around his bizarre fantasyland  Trump took the country for a spin around his bizarre fantasyland  Trump took the country for a spin around his bizarre fantasyland Our best hope is that people will be willing to compromise, even with those they believe to be fundamentally wrong. The good news is that the insider-outsider issues at the core of our political divisions all have middle grounds and thus are ripe for compromise, but this does not mean it will be easy. For example, conservatives, and especially Trump supporters, must be willing to tolerate an inflow of immigrants that is greater than they would like, while liberals must be willing to tolerate an inflow of immigrants that is less than they would like. Conservatives will need to recognize that meaningful police reforms are necessary, while liberals will need to recognize that reforms will never go far enough for their liking. Of course, the problem is not locating a middle ground; the problem is convincing people they should move to it. Conservatives are convinced any concession they make will irreversibly harm America, and liberals are convinced any concession they make will implicate them in blatant ethnocentrism. Neither of these beliefs is true.The existence of two distinct, entrenched, committed and permanent predispositions suggests we have no choice but to compromise even though we are convinced the other side is not even partially correct. Our political adversaries will not be moved by clever posts, zippy comebacks or snide remarks. As wrong as we might believe our political adversaries to be, they are not going away. For our own mental health and for the health of the country, all of us need to stop treating our political beliefs as sacrosanct and inviolable. Get our free weekly newsletter

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Deep down, those Americans who want to draw outsiders in and those who want to wall them out could hardly be more different. Shibboleths regarding American unity are well intentioned but counterproductive. It is time we acknowledged our ideological diversity so that we can deal with it — rather than pretend it either does not exist or can be solved by demeaning those with whom we disagree.

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https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/11/opinions/us-divided-myth-national-unity-hibbing/index.html

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