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CNN Special Reports
The Divided State of America: What is Tearing Us Apart? Aired 9-10p ET
Aired January 31, 2021 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN special report.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST (voice-over): George Washington -- in his farewell address he told us, beware political parties. They could bring us, and these are his words, to riot and insurrection.
We can't say he didn't warn us.
The great American divide explodes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like an invasion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People climbing the walls, breaking windows, breaking into doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at war!
ZAKARIA: How did it get this bad?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They legitimately believe the election was a fraud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protect the constitution of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, all of you are liars. You should be ashamed of yourselves!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a sense of broken trust.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one is helping us.
ZAKARIA: A president plays the divider-in-chief.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a con game being played by the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a man of resentments. And his voters have resentments.
TRUMP: We will not take it anymore.
ZAKARIA: True believers become a radical mob.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking this country back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're jihadists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't get to steal it from us.
ZAKARIA: Television and the internet tear us apart.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Social media is a brainwashing machine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot agree on what is true.
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The people in charge rigged the game.
ZAKARIA: But it all began long before Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will do anything to stop us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He built up his own army.
SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lip stick.
ZAKARIA: As a new day begins --
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do solemnly swear --
ZAKARIA: -- will we find some way --
BIDEN: We come together as one nation.
ZAKARIA: -- to breach the great divide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This perennial struggle between our worst impulses and what Lincoln called our better angels.
ZAKARIA: Good evening. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
We, the people, those first three words of the American Constitution, are the definition of our democracy.
But not now. In January, 2021, it is us versus them. The vast and bitter divide between Democrats and Republicans just keeps getting worse.
How bad is it now? Even after the storming of the Capitol, even after Joe Biden's inauguration, 75 percent of Republicans still believe that Donald Trump actually won last November's election. And Republican leaders will not say what they know to be true, that it's simply false, a lie.
We don't face a clash over political differences. We're watching something much deeper, a cultural divide that is turning partisans into radicals and radicals into insurgents. The divisions in this country have been growing deeper and uglier for decades. But we simply ignored the flashing red lights. We just kept going.
Now, it is crucial that we stop and try to understand how we got here.
A defeated president.
TRUMP: You're sworn to uphold our Constitution.
ZAKARIA: A president who lost an election. Unwilling to leave office, Donald Trump concocts fantasies instead.
TRUMP: Tens of thousands of votes. They came in in duffle bags. Where the hell did they come from?
ZAKARIA: This is his final chance to sell the big lie.
TRUMP: It's so crazy that people don't even believe it. It can't be true.
ZAKARIA: Stunningly, millions do believe him.
And now many of the faithful have an ominous plan to save their president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's take the Capitol! Take the Capitol! Take it!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take the Capitol! Take the Capitol right now!
ZAKARIA: At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue --
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let's go. Let's just start.
ZAKARIA: A bizarre debate questioning the validity of an election already certified by all 50 states.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Americans instinctively know there was something wrong with this election.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): What does it say to the nearly half the country that believes this election was rigged?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): What message will we send today? To world that has so looked up to us for centuries?
ZAKARIA: Few in Congress realize that at that very moment, the president is putting a target on them.
TRUMP: After this we're going to walk down and I'll be there with you, we're going to walk down to the capitol. You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
ZAKARIA: The order is clear.
CROWD: Stop the steal! Stop the steal!
ZAKARIA: The crowd begins to move.
CROWD: USA! USA!
ZAKARIA: Inside the capitol, anger is rising.
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): You cannot change the rules of an election while it is under way and expect the American people to trust it.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It has never been our place to overturn an election, and if we hope to remain a democracy, it never will be.
CROWD: Hold the line! Hold the line!
ZAKARIA: Outside, the Trump army is now at the gates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're seeing protesters overcome the police. The police are now running back into the capitol building. This is incredible.
ZAKARIA: Thousands of rioters are storming the Capitol building. These people are convinced that Trump's big lie is the truth. They think they have no option but to act, using any means necessary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to say that what we're doing is right. I'm probably going to lose my job as a pastor after this, but what is it going to take?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We respect the law. We are good people. The government did it to us. We were normal, good, law-abiding citizens, and you guys did this to us. We want our country back!
ZAKARIA: Some members run for their lives. Others are still inside the House chamber. Terrified. Hiding behind any barrier they can find.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They broke the glass. Everybody stay down. Get down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're coming for you, Nancy!
ZAKARIA: Trump's followers are hunting down the most powerful Democrat in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesters actually in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you and we thank you. In Christ's holy name we pray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen!
ZAKARIA: At the end of all this horror --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is the president of the United States? Where is Donald Trump?
ZAKARIA: We were left with just one question: How? How could this happen in the United States of America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the president of the United States says again and again and again the election was fraudulent, they're stealing it from you, we know how it happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a traitor!
ZAKARIA: The divide between red and blue didn't start with Donald Trump. But now, it is an existential crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dying for my country!
ZAKARIA: Because a swath of Republicans have become radicals even insurgents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is the clean right and there's the dirty right. They're not the same. The dirty right traffics in conspiracy theory, white nationalism, and as you can see even violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even think it is the Republican Party anymore. I think this is just Trump. Just call it the patriot party, the Trump party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They used fake news. They were going to lie to us.
ZAKARIA: The Trump party. How large is it? Remember, 75 percent of Republicans say Trump won the election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking back our country and it's going to be deadly.
JON MEACHAM, HISTORIAN: They're jihadists.
ZAKARIA: Jihadists says the historian John Meacham, like ISIS or al Qaeda.
MEACHAM: It is a total war where your whole identity, your whole fortune, your whole way of life is under perpetual assault.
ZAKARIA: Reality now comes in two colors -- red and blue.
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: When we cannot agree on what is true, when we cannot agree on the basic facts, that politics should be about, you cannot have a functioning democracy.
ZAKARIA: The two different worlds we live in extend to the news we watch and read.
On Fox News, the capitol rioters were just a few troublemakers.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: An overwhelming majority of them, 99 point -- more than 99 percent, had to be, were peaceful but because of a small contingent of loons, these patriots have been unfairly maligned.
ZAKARIA: On planet far right, the storming of the capitol was actually the work of Antifa and black people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gas! Gas!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard those reports, too, about possible Antifa infiltration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seen Antifa. We have seen Black Lives Matter. We have seen other --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen leftist groups that have tried to stir up violence.
ZAKARIA: Black Lives Matter, even though the mob was overwhelmingly white.
CROWD: Jews will not replace us!
ZAKARIA: Race has been a key flashpoint in the Trump era, but in fact, it has been the strongest force driving polarization for decades. It is really what got us here.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The tip of the spear, the edge of the blade, is racial division, racial rhetoric -- sometimes muted, sometimes loud, always there.
ZAKARIA: To understand the role of race, we need to go back to the middle of the 20th century, 1950, post-World War II America, bursting with optimism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The past is only an inkling of the future.
ZAKARIA: Factories were humming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More opportunities for us all.
ZAKARIA: The middle class was surging.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The realization of the American dream.
ZAKARIA: Into this idyllic picture came word of a hidden crisis. Scholars warned there was too much unity in American politics.
MEACHAM: We were not polarized enough. That stark enough choices were not being presented to the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They conduct their business in about the same manner and, well, quite truthfully a lot of the speeches sound very much alike.
ZAKARIA: The problem? It sounds bizarre now. But the parties were too mixed up. There were too many liberals in the Republican Party and too many conservatives in the Democratic Party.
MEACHAM: The Democratic Party was an alliance of New England liberals and southern segregationist Democrats.
ZAKARIA: The Southern Democrats were called Dixiecrats. Many Dixiecrats were unabashed racists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.
ZAKARIA: These Democratic conservatives made up a powerful voting bloc in the Senate.
EZRA KLEIN, AUTHOR, "WHY WE'RE POLARIZED": If you want to work with anybody on anything and get your bills done, you have to be in good relationships with the southern bloc of the Democratic Party.
ZAKARIA: The Republicans had their own uneasy alliance, the liberal New Yorker Nelson Rockefeller co-existing with the far right westerner Barry Goldwater. It all worked.
But then came the first stirrings of the civil rights movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not a Texan if you're not for segregation.
ZAKARIA: In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that segregating schools was un-constitutional.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The white children went to school and we stood outside.
ZAKARIA: For the next ten years, there was a new civil war in the South, to bring black children into lily-white schools.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: I have a dream!
ZAKARIA: Then came an earthquake. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just months after John Kennedy's assassination, the new Democratic president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, famous for bending Congress to his will, got the bill through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed at the White House by President Johnson.
MEACHAM: And when he signed it, he said to an aide, I just handed the South to the Republicans for a generation. Johnson was wrong about that. It's been about three. We began to have a Democratic Party that was in the main more liberal and a Republican Party that was in the main far more reactionary.
ZAKARIA: It would indeed be several generations, until it seemed the two parties might finally heal the rift of race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is truly an incredible moment of American history.
ZAKARIA: When Barack Obama became America's first black president, we saw an explosion of national pride, black and white, Democratic and Republican. But it turned out that the country began to have a deeply divided reaction to its young, new president and his family.
JONES: It seemed to bring out a sense of either jealousy or resentment or just fear of loss of status. Well, hold on a second. I've been working my butt off all the time. I look around and here is this black guy so far ahead of me, he's in the White House.
ZAKARIA: One man understood this unease with Obama better than many Republican leaders. He found a way to tap into it with his birther conspiracy theory.
TRUMP: The fact is if he wasn't born in this country, he shouldn't be the president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is his birth certificate? If you're a U.S. citizen, show it. Shut it down and prove it.
ZAKARIA: When scholars spent time with Tea Party activists, they found behind the talk of taxes and big government were people mostly motivated by fears about race and immigration.
MEACHAM: The people who have been most radicalized by the Trump years believed that diversity was an idea not a vivid reality.
ZAKARIA: In 1950, the year our political parties was said to be too similar, the country was about 90 percent white. Now in 2021, as we face an existential crisis of division, America is about 59 percent white.
MEACHAM: We are living in the most vivid manifestation of the politics of fear in our history. That's where we are now.
CROWD: Freedom, freedom, freedom!
ZAKARIA: In an alternate universe --
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Trump people were not scaling the wall.
CJ PEARSON, REPUBLICAN NOMINEE TO THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Trump supporters don't do that. We're not liberals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) are they?
ZAKARIA: A pro-Trump mob could never have stormed the capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of it is the Antifa folks.
ZAKARIA: COVID-19 is nothing to worry about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a virus. Like the flu.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I get it, I'll beat it.
ZAKARIA: And Donald Trump won the election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a decisive victory for Trump.
ZAKARIA: In a landslide.
LT. GEN. THOMAS MCINERNEY, UNITED STATE AIR FORCE (RETIRED): This election has been stolen from the American people.
ZAKARIA: Millions of Americans are being brain-washed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a plan-demic.
ZAKARIA: On the airways and online.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They stole it. They're thieves.
ZAKARIA: They live in a completely different reality.
ZAKARIA: That is the greatest threat to our democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not alone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have every right to be suspicious. It is your birth right as Americans.
ZAKARIA: How did what we read, what we watched, and what we shared become a dystopia of disinformation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Direct from our newsroom in New York --
ZAKARIA: At the dawn of the television age --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Network television's first daily half hour news program.
ZAKARIA: -- things were a lot simpler.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Huntley-Brinkley Report.
ZAKARIA: The big three network newscasts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On ABC, you get the news fast and you get it straight.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT: The United States is serious about its commitments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything a-okay.
ZAKARIA: Would tell a similar, middle of the road story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special report, the confrontation in Washington.
ZAKARIA: But for many on the right --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A growing minority is raising its voice in protest.
ZAKARIA: -- the mainstream media leaned liberal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Nixon heard today the voice of the campus.
JULIAN E. ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It really became an animating theme for a lot of conservatives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like them or not, these are the --
ZAKARIA: Few Republicans hated the networks more.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Don't get the impression that you aroused my anger.
ZAKARIA: Than Richard Nixon.
NIXON: One can only be angry with those he respects.
ZAKARIA: He hired a kindred spirit to help with the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger Ailes was that producer.
ZAKARIA: The future founder of Fox News, Roger Ailes.
ZELIZER: They bring him on to the team for a media strategy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidates need no introduction.
ZAKARIA: For his famously awkward candidate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Nixon, would you like to comment?
NIXON: I have no comment.
ZAKARIA: Ailes engineered a miraculous makeover.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Nixon.
ZAKARIA: Producing highly staged town halls. NIXON: This is a great country.
ZAKARIA: It was a brilliant end run around the press.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next president of the United States, Richard Nixon.
ZAKARIA: And it helped Nixon win the presidency.
But there was nothing Ailes could do to stop Watergate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Political sabotage, and espionage, unparalleled in American history.
JANE MAYER, THE NEW YORKER: He felt that the networks didn't treat the Nixon with enough respect.
NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
MAYER: He wanted to create a media vehicle that would be protection for the next Nixon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger Ailes, former TV man for Nixon.
ZAKARIA: Ailes became the go-to right wing media strategist of the 1980s.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Big Rog. How are you, pal?
ZAKARIA: Infamous for his vicious attacks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As Governor Michael Dukakis gave weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers.
ZAKARIA: In 1996 --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been very lucky we've been able to obtain the services of Mr. Roger Ailes.
ZAKARIA: Ailes found his destiny.
ROGER AILES, REPUBLICAN OPERATIVE: Our job is to be objective.
ZAKARIA: When billionaire Rupert Murdoch came calling. The right wing's favorite hatchet man --
AILES: We do not believe that it's up to the media to make up the public's mind.
ZAKARIA: -- was now creating a new news network.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ABC News final.
ZAKARIA: The old, mainstream media cartel had splintered.
BRIT HUME, MANAGING EDITOR: These days, people think TV news is about as unbiased as the commercials.
ZAKARIA: On cable, every channel needed to find its own slice of the audience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dedicated to getting the story right.
ZAKARIA: Ailes turned his channel into a right-wing bull horn, blurring facts and opinion like never before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut his mic.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Democrats have now politicized our national security.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're watching Fox News Channel.
ZAKARIA: Big ratings and profits soon followed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The power of Fox News Channel.
ZAKARIA: Ailes reshaped his competitors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Fox's Bill O'Reilly lying again.
ZAKARIA: As anchors on the other side of the aisle --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The battle for truth, the battle for justice.
ZAKARIA: -- delivered their own partisan jabs.
KEITH OLBERMANN, FORMER HOST: Having frightened us, having bullied us, you are a liar, Mr. Bush. Shut the hell up.
ZAKARIA: But no one did things quite like Fox.
PHIL DONAHUE, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: You are part of a loud group of people.
MAYER: There is big money in polarization.
BILL O'REILLY, FORMER HOST: You are clueless.
MAYER: If you can stir people up, you can keep them watching. And when you've got their eyeballs, you've got their pocketbooks.
ZAKARIA: After the cable revolution --
VOICE PROMPT: You've got mail.
ZAKARIA: -- came the digital revolution. Facebook began with lofty intentions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Facebook's 1.1 billion users.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Worth between $75 billion and $100 billion.
ZAKARIA: But as the company doubled down on growth, it kept creating masterful algorithms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who join say it can be addictive.
ZAKARIA: Designed to keep people engaged. Clicking and scrolling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sort of creates its own world you get sucked into.
ZAKARIA: The algorithms encouraged content that was sensational and extreme.
ROGER MCNAMEE, EARLY FACEBOOK INVESTOR: Polarization was the key to the model, this idea of appealing to people's lower level emotions. Things like fear and anger to create greater engagement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The largest IPO in tech history.
ZAKARIA: It was a spectacularly successful business strategy.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK FOUNDER AND CEO: Now you have access to all of this information.
ZAKARIA: But it produced political disaster. The algorithms kept providing content that was more and more outrageous and often untrue.
ZUCKERBERG: We didn't take a broad enough view of our responsibility and that was a big mistake.
TRUMP: This guy either has a birth certificate or he doesn't.
ZAKARIA: Meanwhile on cable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he was born in this country?
TRUMP: I am concerned.
ZAKARIA: Egged on by Trump.
TRUMP: Ballots are missing. There is fraud.
ZAKARIA: Fox News peddled its own conspiracy theories. And new channels --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the OAN Evening News.
ZAKARIA: -- that were even more extreme.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some are questioning the nature of the virus.
ZAKARIA: Tried to outdo Fox at its own game.
MICHELLE MALKIN, NEWSMAX: America first or America last?
ZAKARIA: Chasing the profits of polarization.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about government control. Joe Biden is not the president-elect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a massive lie.
ZAKARIA: On January 6th -- America's dystopia of disinformation came alive for all to see. Now conspiracy theorists weren't living on the fringes of society. They were in the United States capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, listen, people!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our country! This is our house!
ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: January 6th is like the internet come alive. It's surreal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People, come on!
ZAKARIA: Chilling proof that our nation's cancer of lies is spreading fast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our capitol! We built it!
ZAKARIA: And that no one in America is immune.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guess what? America showed up!
CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They broke through. It's on. You better run, cops!
ZAKARIA: Rage on Capitol Hill.
The fury was fueled by Trump's lies about a fraudulent election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They work for us.
ZAKARIA: But it was also about something deeper, about one of the driving issues at the heart of America's divide, something Americans find difficult to talk about -- class and social status.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the people, not you the elitists
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we should have yanked our senators out by the hair of the head and drag them out.
ZAKARIA: At the root of this anger is a deep resentment toward the country's elite class.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They turned their back on us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one's helping us. Only us can help us.
MEACHAM: Once politics becomes that enveloped, you are battling these existential foes of your way of life.
ZAKARIA: For many, their way of life, their very identity is under attack, their beliefs and values.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pro-life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God first.
ZAKARIA: It is all part of a new class war. But class is now defined in complicated ways. It's not simply about economics anymore, a battle between the rich and working class. The new war in America is about a way of life -- kinds of work, social values, cultural choices, sometimes called identity politics.
KLEIN: We all have identities. We have tons of them.
And this just goes all the way down the line, what kind of TV we like. What kind of places we shop.
ZAKARIA: To better understand how the country has become so polarized, so divided by class -- you need only to look at this man.
In the 2020 presidential election, the counties that voted for Joe Biden taking up a small part of the country's geography were responsible for 71 percent of the nation's economy.
That vast sea of red, the counties that Donald Trump won, contributed a meager 29 percent of the American GDP.
It illustrates that the United States may be one country but two very different worlds. Divided by two things above all -- where you live and whether you went to college.
KLEIN: People call it the diploma divide. More educated Americans are overwhelmingly becoming Democratic. Less educated Americans moving much more into the Republican column. This is particularly true among white voters.
ZAKARIA: Just look at the breakdown. Blue America is mostly urban, densely populated, diverse, with a large share of college-educated workers in professional and creative jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people talk about the degree divide, that is really the class divide. Having a college degree, that's actually the strongest proxy for who is in the professional managerial elite.
ZAKARIA: On the other hand, red America is home to the country's beautiful heartlands and vast farms that feed most Americans. It's not nearly as crowded. It's whiter with more Americans who work
with their hands. Fewer here attend college and they don't like the urban professional elite.
This divide has only been sharpened by the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college educated workers were far more likely to telework and maintain their standard of living than those without education.
JONES: I think people who didn't go through those four years see the rules being broken all the time, by bankers, by economic elites. And they feel like, hey, if somebody is going to break the rules and be on my side as a rule breaker, I'll accept that
TRUMP: I love the poorly educated.
JONES: For many white, working class voters, Donald Trump seemed a messiah.
TRUMP: The forgotten men and women of the United States are forgotten no more. You work hard. You pay your taxes. You do all these things and you were forgotten. They forgot about you.
MAYER: And Trump did nothing for them. But he knew how to exploit them.
TRUMP: The elite, the elite.
ZAKARIA: Trump used resentment of elites, and hammered home cultural issues -- immigration.
TRUMP: This is an invasion.
TRUMP: In America, we don't worship government. We worship God.
TRUMP: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
TRUMP: Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House.
GEORGE PACKER, AUTHOR, "THE UNWINDING": White, working class politics is cultural now. It's become an identity politics.
ZAKARIA: Donald Trump had a role model for his exploitation of the class divide. Sarah Palin, who did it first.
When America's hockey mom became John McCain's running mate in 2008 --
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: They say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lip stick.
ZAKARIA: She leaned heavily on identity politics, on American values and culture to rile up her base.
PALIN: I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment.
ZAKARIA: Her brand of America --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah is totally awesome. She speaks to the people like a regular person. You got to love her.
ZAKARIA: Talking about the real America, saying I'm one of you, was the precursor of Trump's war on elites.
PACKER: Sarah Palin, who I think of as John the Baptist to Trump. She was the one who came first.
TRUMP: Governor Sarah Palin.
ZAKARIA: But before Palin or Trump, there was another Republican who paved the way for our partisan war, when we come back.
ZAKARIA: It's tempting to say Donald Trump is the reason for America's great divide.
TRUMP: We're going to walk down to the capitol.
CROWD: Fight for Trump!
ZAKARIA: But before there was a Donald Trump, there was a Republican pioneer who paved the way for the Trump brand of destructive politics.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: I am a genuine revolutionary. They are the genuine reactionaries. We are going to change their world.
ZAKARIA: This is the story of Newt Gingrich, the man who wrote the playbook for the modern conservative movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newt Gingrich, a Republican, has taken over a congressional seat that's been a Democratic stronghold for a quarter century.
GINGRICH: I've also put together a one-page proposal.
ZAKARIA: In 1979, when Gingrich arrived in Washington, he had a singular goal, to blow up the political establishment, including the Republican Party. Democrats had been in control of Congress for so long it was called a permanent Democratic majority. It was a very different time in politics when civility and compromise mattered. House Republican leader Bob Michael was widely known as Mr. Nice Guy. Imagine that.
JONES: Newt Gingrich comes in with a buzzsaw.
GINGRICH: What we are living through is a fundamental civil struggle. A civil war fought in public speeches rather than with armies.
ZAKARIA: The Gingrich philosophy, the only way for Republicans to win back power was to be nasty -- really nasty.
GINGRICH: For the Democrats to basically say not only are we going to rape you but you have to pay for the hotel room is a bit much.
ZAKARIA: To treat them not as opponents but as the enemy.
ZELIZER: Newt Gingrich saw politics like war.
ZAKARIA: At first, the Republican old guard shunned him. They thought his tactics were toxic.
MAYER: Gingrich was kind of a nobody. He wasn't a great legislator. But what he had was a knack for stirring controversy and getting attention.
TRUMP: American patriots.
ZAKARIA: Long before Trump used Twitter and Fox to get around media filters, Gingrich had C-Span.
GINGRICH: I'm going to speak this evening on the loony left, the machine which controls the U.S. House of Representatives.
ZAKARIA: Late at night, Gingrich and his allies would head to the House floor to let America know that radical Democrats were a dangerous threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The radical wing of the Democratic Party has taken over the foreign policy of that party.
GINGRICH: In view of the modern world that is rigid, unyielding, and skewed.
ZELIZER: It looked like the Democrats had no response.
ZAKARIA: What the C-Span cameras didn't show was that the House chamber was almost empty.
TIP O'NEILL (D), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You deliberately stood in that well before an empty House and challenged these people and you challenged their Americanism.
And it's the lowest thing that I've ever seen in my 32 years in Congress.
GINGRICH: I yield, Mr. Speaker. I yield -- ZAKARIA: It was exactly what Newt Gingrich wanted.
He made national news and damaged the Democrats' reputation.
ZELIZER: They elevated him and it made him a serious player in the eyes of Republicans.
GINGRICH: I was a college teacher.
ZAKARIA: Gingrich had the greatest impact by teaching other Republicans how to use his partisan tactics. He took over GOPAC, a fledging Republican grassroots group in 1986 and turned it into a powerhouse.
JONES: He got car salesmen, he got football coaches. And he spent a lot of time educating them through satellite television, audio cassettes, and he built up his own army.
ZAKARIA: They were taught how to campaign and how to use extreme rhetoric to attack their opponents. It was called Newt Speak.
ZELIZER: They have to use words like sick and traitorous and corrupt in order to really get their message across.
TRUMP: These are sick people.
ZAKARIA: Sound familiar?
TRUMP: They are crazy.
ZAKARIA: By the 1990s, Newt Gingrich catapulted from the fringes of the GOP to a position of power in the party. The culture wars ramped up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Antiabortion. Pro-school prayer. Opposed to pornography and gay rights.
GINGRICH: This is a war between the political class of the left and the rest of the nation.
ZAKARIA: Gingrich built a Republican coalition made up of Christian conservatives and anti-big government and anti-tax voters.
ZELIZER: They could all agree on their enemies.
ZAKARIA: In 1994, Gingrich's campaign to radicalize the Republican Party finally paid off. Republicans took the House, Senate, and the majority of governors' races.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. There is a seismic shift to the right in the political landscape of America tonight.
GINGRICH: This is truly a wildly historic night.
ZAKARIA: Gingrich was hailed as a visionary and elected speaker of the House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hereby end 40 years of Democratic rule of this house.
ZAKARIA: As speaker, Gingrich weaponized the government shutdown. Give us what we want or we're closing you down.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: It is deeply wrong to shut the government down while we negotiate.
ZAKARIA: Gingrich also led the House Republican campaign to impeach President Clinton.
CLINTON: These allegations are false.
ZAKARIA: For lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. It back fired. Most Americans thought impeachment was an overreach. And Republicans lost seats in the 1998 elections.
Facing plunging popularity and his own ethics problems, Newt Gingrich decided to resign.
His legacy has been both dark and far reaching, a permanent state of war between the parties.
ZAKARIA: Almost 20 years ago, after the horrifying attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001, I began trying to understand who were these young men who flew airplanes into buildings, and what could be the reasons for their radicalization.
I discovered that they were almost all people who believed or had been made to believe that the world was being destroyed by an ever-growing Westernization. To them, their way of life, their values were under siege as America and its ideas and interests swept the globe. Osama bin Laden and other Islamist radicals preached to them that their job was to fight and resist this broad trend and to help usher in a return to the better older ways when the Muslim world was governed by its own values and traditions. It was a call to make Islam great again.
Let me be clear. I am not equating those who stormed the capitol with al Qaeda and ISIS. There are vast differences, and there's also a huge gulf between those who believe certain ideas vaguely and those small bans of fanatics who act on these ideas, willing to use violence to accomplish their vision.
But the mechanism of radicalization is often the same. It centers on fear, fear of losing what you have, fear of an ongoing march of history that is changing your country, fear of the replacing of your people and their way of life. That fear makes the stakes seem high enough for you to support anyone on your side, oppose anyone on the other side, and look at politics as war. America may have a mild version of Middle Eastern polarization, but it
does have the disease. Politics in America has become deeply rooted in identity. We may talk about budgets and programs, but they're really just the outward manifestations of a much deeper divide, rooted in geography, class, and culture.
One of the earliest writers to recognize this was Bill Bishop who in a 2008 book "The Big Sort" pointed out that Republicans were increasingly living amongst Republicans and Democrats amongst Democrats. One simple measure in 1976, only a quarter of Americans lived in a county that went for one presidential candidate or another in a landslide. The other three quarters lived in counties that were less overwhelmingly partisans. By 2020, 58 percent of Americans lived in landslide counties.
Therein might lie a set of solutions to the problem of extreme polarization. Ones I've outlined before in a commencement address at Ohio State University, we should ask ourselves in what ways we can force ourselves to spend time with one another, including with those with whom we disagree.
I believe that a program of national service in which young Americans from all over the country can spend a year working together in the army or in schools or parks or homeless shelters could create a shared experience that would bind us closer together.
Above all, government needs to show that it can work for people. A generation of polarization has also produced a generation of gridlock, government so divided that it is unable to act. We have to find a way to free government from this death grip. Politics has to function. Those who win must be allowed to act and translate their ideas into policies.
If the public likes it, they have the power to vote, but constant paralysis only feeds the feeling that government does nothing and is to be mocked and despised.
We often talk about plans and policies, but ultimately, this may be a personal challenge up to all of us to imagine ourselves and other people's shoes, to see the world for a moment through those different lenses, and above all, to remember that ancient piece of wisdom contained in the Bible and so many books -- to treat others as we would like them to treat us.
It won't end polarization tomorrow, but it could begin to heal some of the wounds we see all around us.
There is, however, another personal challenge. It's for all of us, but chiefly for our leaders -- please lead.
Republicans for years now have been silent as extreme and intolerant voices have grown in their midst. They've catered to their base no matter where it took them. They must once again become leaders and not panderers. And for them and for all of us, finally, we must stand up for the
truth and against lies, no matter who tells them. We cannot repair our broken politics if we all cannot agree that reason is better than unreason, fact privileged over fantasy, and truth superior to lies. No healing can happen without that simple unyielding commitment.
Thank you for taking the time to hear me out on this crucial subject. I'm Fareed Zakaria. Good night.