By WCCO’s Caroline Cummings

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On the eve of Joe Biden’s presidency, the country he’s about to lead faces challenges that loom large: a deadly pandemic, an economy in tatters, civil unrest in the quest for racial equality, and just two weeks ago, an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that left American democracy wounded.

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All of these moments of the last year have been touched by politics, which faces its own crisis of division that has be widening for decades, experts say.

“This is something that’s been unfolding for multiple decades now and what we generally find is that there’s just sharper differences between Democrats and Republicans on a number of factors,” said Christopher Federico, director of the Center for Political Psychology at the University of Minnesota. “30 or 40 years ago, ideology—whether a person identified as liberal or conservative—was not as tightly as aligned with partisanship as it is now.”

Federico says negative partisanship—people’s distaste for those of a different political party— in particular has deepened over the last four years and politics may also color one’s interpretation of facts.

A recent CBS News poll shows party fault lines with the election’s outcome: 96% of Democrats consider Joe Biden the legitimate winner of November’s, compared to just 31% of Republicans, even though there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities that would reverse the outcome.

Federico added that disparate views on the fairness of the election, if not reconciled, can further impede the ability for political parties to work together.

He called the difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views on the election a “vast gulf,” and said that it’s unclear if beliefs that the election was rife with fraud and other malfeasance will persist going forward and subsequently impact cooperation.

Much of what happens next though, he said, might depend on the words of leadership today.

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“If Democratic leaders and Republican leaders start to say very different things about basic political facts, like who won the presidential election on Nov. 3, then people in the public at large are going to also adopt those views as well,” he said.

DFL leaders on Tuesday called on Minnesota Republicans at the state capitol and in Congress to not only accept but declare Joe Biden as rightful victor of the election.

“We’re here today to demand that Republican leaders in Minnesota correct their false statements, and they state clearly without hedging that the 2020 elections were free and fair, and that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States of America,” said Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota DFL. “This is vital for our nation as we move forward.”

Minnesota Republicans at the state and federal level have previously raised questions about the outcome of the election results. Republican U.S. Reps. Jim Hagedorn and Michelle Fishcbach voted to object the certification of the Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. The state’s two other GOP members of Congress broke with many members of their party in the chamber and did not vote to contest those results.

Following the DFL news conference, members of the New House Republican Caucus hosted their own press briefing to raise their concerns about the way Minnesota conducted its 2020 elections during the pandemic. They disputed the Secretary of State’s changes to election administration.

“People need to understand our role as a legislator is to write election law, and I would hope that the Secretary of State would follow those laws that we write that he should follow and that the attorney general would enforce those law,” said. Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-St. Paul. ”Joe Biden will be sworn in tomorrow as President, and I’ve told people that, but when you have an election that did not follow existing election law that by definition is an unlawful election.”

President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office Wednesday at 12 p.m. EST and will soon preside over a Democratic-controlled U.S. House and a 50-50 Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, tipping the balance of power to the Democrats and allowing for passage of their agenda.

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In Minnesota, the legislature is divided, which requires both parties to compromise in some way to advance legislation.