Is Politics a War of Ideas or of Us Against Them?

Thomas B. Edsall in the New York Times:

Is the deepening animosity between Democrats and Republicans based on genuine differences over policy and ideology or is it a form of tribal warfare rooted in an atavistic us-versus-them mentality?

Is American political conflict relatively content-free — emotionally motivated electoral competition — or is it primarily a war of ideas, a matter of feuding visions both of what America is and what it should become?

Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at Brookings, recently put the issue this way in an essay at the National Affairs website: “Here we reach an interesting, if somewhat surreal, question. What if, to some significant extent, the increase in partisanship is not really about anything?”

More here.