!!> Reading ➽ Why Were Polarized ➶ Author Ezra Klein – Thomashillier.co.uk



10 thoughts on “Why Were Polarized

  1. says:

    Politics uses us for its own endsThere are endless shelves of books on what has happened to politics in the USA, culminating in the rule of Trump Most of them hit on polarization sooner or later Ezra Klein s book totally focuses on it, but in ways that are engaging, relatable and relevant than many others I have read It is thorough, fair, reflective, cautious and accurate And therefore depressing Why We re Polarized has an overall umbrella theory Politics uses us for its own ends We are captives, not participants The two party system herds voters into corrals from which they cannot choose to leave, for fear the other party might win It has come to the point where families discourage marrying someone who supports the other party, and people move to new neighborhoods to be with their own party supporters I doubt this is what Jefferson and Madison imagined when they set it up.Klein uses sports to illustrate how people devolve into mad animals in support of their favorite team Fights break out, hooligans roam the streets Everything must be done to keep the team on top, be it firing the coach, buying the best talent from a competitor, or rioting if that will help Rallies and tailgate parties to rouse the emotions The other team winning That just cannot happen Change teams Never.So with political parties.Klein likes to think voters are intelligent, that they seek data and make rational decisions But he also acknowledges that an expert is a credentialed person who agrees with me And that most Americans cannot name the governor of their state But they know with total certainty how they will vote Because it s no longer about government It s all about ideology.As careful as he is in presenting his research, he continually acknowledges that he can still be called biased He is aware that everyone is unfair at some level He discovers he can t be totally fair, even when he wants to be Someone will find something to criticize, labeling him as representing the Other Because that s the frame today.He knows firsthand that most election efforts are wasted Both parties focus on motivated reasoning knocking on doors and presenting unimpeachable facts But you can t change people s minds by utterly refuting their arguments It fails every time As in sports, people have group loyalties that cannot be shaken Attack their beliefs and they hunker down Far better to spend those resources getting people to show up at the polls than thinking you can flip them from Red to Blue with logic Can t be done Klein spends a lot of time examining the evolution of the two party morass Right up to the 1960s, there was co operation Elected officials worked for the country than the party State mattered than federal Local was most important of all Voters chose actual people they wanted to represent them, not which ideology should prevail As early as age 15 I noticed and proclaimed that both political parties were two sides of the same coin I didn t know what the fuss was about Didn t matter which party you voted for they d work it out together anyway Today they are night and day, and it s not better Today, it is not how will this legislation affect my district, it is how does this legislation sit with my party, he says It s the wrong question, but it has become the only question That s why government doesn t work any He shows that Donald Trump is not an extreme anything He is the logical next step in a party built on fear of losing not just an election but control of life Nothing he says or does is too outrageous for Republicans, because they have a single narrow focus self preservation Democrats are at a disadvantage because they are open and inclusive classes and colors and nationalist groups As Will Rogers put it in the 1930s I am not a member of any organized political party I m a Democrat Polarization has been creeping into American lives at an ever accelerating pace, and there is no end in sight It is making the country dysfunctional, and the dysfunctional it becomes the polarized it becomes Because the other ideology is a lie.Klein ends by saying he doesn t like Conclusions He demonstrates it by having trouble with his It s a kludge of patches that will not be implemented, precisely because they count on the entrenched to make them happen Mostly, he trots out the tired arguments for proportional representations, which would encourage parties to form He does not say that this would turn the US into an Israel or a Belgium, where no one can govern at all Belgium went for two years without a government because no one could assemble enough parties to form one Israel is about to have three elections in a year for the same reason Italy has not had a cohesive government since Mussolini Multi party is no solution It is both surprising and disappointing that Klein, as fair and thorough as he is, never mentions the truly ugly downside of the multiparty system he recommends.For all his work here, the problem is he does not follow through he does not go nearly far enough At one point earlier on, he says the US is not a democracy, but he says it for the wrong reasons He points to rural voters having far clout than urban voters, and Republicans preventing minorities of all stripes from voting But the real reason the US is not a democracy is because the US is not a democracy Representation was never supposed to be a lifetime occupation Elected representatives were not supposed to get rich from it Representation was supposed to be a civic duty, not a career It is an obligation, a burden and a sacrifice, not simply a process to create a ruling class of white men Political parties, feared by George Washington and many other founders, should not have been allowed to arise in the first place They watched them rise anyway, and stood by as all their fears came true Party uber alles Country be damned.So imagine if the 500 thousand elected officials in the US could only serve one term And if there weren t enough candidates, they would be chosen as in jury duty as they did in Ancient Greece There would be no campaign financing, no PACs, no primaries, no lobbyists or bribery, because no one could establish a base or be around long enough to be compromised Instead of constant fundraising, work could get done Imagine if people were elected to serve on committees instead of chambers They would have to decide real issues, not ideological policies They would only have one job to do The committees would decide on roads or schools, foreign aid or civil rights, tariffs or taxes Teachers would be on education committees instead of billionaires with no background Scientists would be on science committees instead of lobbyists Ideology would lose every time it was inserted into the deliberations, because ideology is not relevant to the work of government And after four or five years, the committees would disband and members would be replaced by others who reflected the newer times better That s how they did it 2500 years ago.That s called democracy Preventing the nomination hearings of a supreme court justice for the entirely bogus reason that it would take place in an election year should never be allowed to happen Holding up government funding and shutting it all down, threatening the sanctity of the world financial system over a wall should never be allowed to happen The two party system itself should never be allowed It is clearly poisonous It forces people to label themselves and stick with them Out of fear.Real democracy is at least as impossible as proportional representation in the USA, but it is a viable solution to the polarization that cripples the nation.David Wineberg


  2. says:

    Why We re Polarized sets out to succinctly break down why American politics has become so dysfunctional over the past forty years The book begins by offering an oversimplified account of the fall of the New Deal coalition in the 1960s, then pivots to arguing that the subsequent party realignment along geographic and racial lines can largely be explained by the psychology of tribalism and white anxiety about America s shifting demographics Klein writes snappy prose that s easy to read, and for whatever it s worth he brings up a great deal of psychological and sociological studies, many of which are interesting But his analysis of politics is so shallow It s no revelation that racism and bias are breeding animosity among the electorate, and he offers few new insights he also fails to account for obvious factors that have led to the awful state of things today, ignoring everything from most history past the postwar period to our time s skyrocketing level of socioeconomic inequality Those seeking concise explanations of Trump s rise should instead check out Naomi Klein s No Is Not Enough and Carol Anderson s White Rage.


  3. says:

    What began as a mostly balanced examination of why Americans are polarized transformed into multiple attacks on everything on the Right It was almost as if two books had been written.In the first half, author Ezra Klein seemed to try hard to be fair in his analysis, although from time to time he did inject his own political views I concentrated on considering if the information Mr Klein presented made sense, allowing his examples to strengthen his point that as our identities everything we are that is primarily considered non political activate under one umbrella our political identity , they become stronger In his own words, Our political identities have become political mega identities Further into the book, Mr Klein makes the point even clearer when referring to his own opinions I can t tell you that s not just my motivated reasoning in action But the main thrust of the first half of the book is not to point at each of us and show us how we each rationalize to support our beliefs The question is what this behavior means and how it affects all of us The author traces the initial split over half a century ago to a time when conservatives and liberals were part of both major parties The lines are clearly drawn today, and I can t remember recently seeing anyone identified as a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat The author presents a multitude of facts, surveys, and tests that support what happened politically in America and why we are divided than ever If I would have been highlighting old school in a book rather than on my Kindle, I would have gone through several highlighters Like many of you, I realized long ago that it is easy and comfortable for all of us to support our own personal views if we only seek them out from those who think the same way we do For years, I have done my best to read and listen to opposing views, although I can t say that my own motivated reasoning doesn t get in the way from time to time It certainly did for Mr Klein, who speaks at length about polarization and motivated reasoning yet by the middle of the book used Republicans and conservatives as cannon fodder Almost every example featured a negative look at Republicans without a matching balance aimed at the Democrats Thus, he presents the strongest argument for his premise through personal example In turn, those who disagree with him may take exception to his comments, thus strengthening the polarization he speaks about It s too bad he didn t take a step back and remove his personal filters, rather than spend the second half of the book echoing the political comments found in pro Democrat news outlets While Mr Klein s description of why America is so split at this time is spot on, his unnecessary backhand comments and distorted facts in the second half of the book do not match his definition of mindfulness in the last chapter, and caused me to rethink the five star rating I was prepared to give after reading the first half of the book I still recommend this book for everyone, no matter where you see yourself on the political spectrum Knowing why we are so polarized may provide new thoughts for all of us, perhaps offering a path toward working together rather than tearing each other down Three stars.My thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press Simon Schuster for an advance complimentary electronic copy of this book.


  4. says:

    I ve been waiting for this book ever since Ezra Klein first mentioned he was working on it during one of his podcast episodes As the title explains, Klein s book tells the story of how and why the United States is currently a polarized nation Klein defines polarization as the phenomenon when the opinions of the public change which results in them splitting and gathering around two ideological poles leaving no true moderates in the country Klein addresses how did the US transition from a depolarized mid 20th Century to a polarized 21st Century One of the biggest reasons has to do with the issue of race and how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought about a realignment between the Democrats and Republicans I love that Klein makes it clear from the beginning that this is a book about how systems cause polarization rather than people He shows this by referencing high quality research across different fields of study political science, psychology, sociology, and history One of the fascinating studies that he mentions in the book to explain how bad polarization has become dealt with college scholarships The study found committee members were less likely to vote to give a scholarship to a student if they were of a different political party than the committee member Klein also effectively shows how policy issues such as the individual mandate for health insurance, cap and trade, and Russian aggression have become polarizing Using history he shows that the political party that once supported these issues came out in opposition once the opposing political party came out in favor of the policy.Klein concludes his book advocating for reforms not to end polarization but to help the country adapt to it I have heard of many of the solutions that he proposes such as eliminating the filibuster and the Electoral College and adding justices to the Supreme Court I found the proposals that were new to me to be interesting such as automatic economic stabilizers and multi member congressional districts in conjunction with ranked choice voting Ultimately, Klein s book should be read by all concerned citizens and policy makers who are interested in reading a non academic book on the roots of polarization and are interested in creating systems within the government to lessen the negative effects of polarization Thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press for the free ARC copy in exchange for a honest review.


  5. says:

    I really like Ezra Klein he s a really smart and generous guy This book is calm and it s insightful and it really points to some of the troubling polarizations of our era And in explaining them, he doesn t point fingers and the obvious culprits, but roots his analysis in human nature and large structural changes to political parties and elections.


  6. says:

    The mere existence of Ezra Klein s outstanding and compulsively readable account of the rise and consequences of polarization is a paradox Klein creatively synthesizes a wide range of social science literature, mostly from political science and social psychology, combing it with his own extensive first hand observation of American politics in a book that is sympathetic to a wide range of perspectives without suffering from the traps of naked partisanship on the one hand or false equivalences on the other.Klein is clear that our polarization problem does not stem from too little information or too little exposure to the perspective of the other side In fact he cites a set of social psychology experiments that show that people are rationalizes than reasoners, that smarter and informed people turn their intelligence and information into grist for their previous views, and that exposing people to opposing perspectives turns them off to them and strengthens their own views.And that is why the mere existence of this book is a paradox It reasons instead of rationalizing It aims to persuade rather than mobilize And Klein exposes himself and the reader to the other side of just about everything, including a relatively sympathetic account of everything form how whites feel their historic privileges threatened to Mitch McConnell s decision to block Merrick Garland It is almost like the very act of writing this book is a rejection of its thesis, or at least a loud protest against it both explicitly and in form.Many people will likely come to this book after reading the New York Times oped version I liked the oped, but one thing I appreciated about the book is that, unlike the oped, it spent the first 85% on the topic of polarization without talking much if at all about the different ways that it has affected Democrats and Republicans I think this is intellectually honest and perhaps a foolish hope may bring along a wider set of readers This presentational choice also makes the last part of the book that shows how the Republican Party has become of an insurgent outlier that is captive to something like one group and one set of highly partisan media, that much compelling.There wasn t much in the book I disagreed with My main complaint is that I wanted Klein calls for democratization but does not discuss his view on whether that might conflict with protections for minorities and if so how it should be handled He does not talk about the right way to balance democratic and technocratic control And the relationship between polarization and the delegitimization of elites is largely missing from his account.Finally, to expand something I said in the opening paragraph, I think Klein is a model for how to use social science Too many political reporters ignore it entirely Or if they like data analytics, think they can figure it out on their own Ezra reads widely, books and articles He talks to the authors And he takes it seriously But he also does something the social scientists cannot do he has talked extensively to many of the leading political players over the last decade Not everyone could pull it off as well as he does, but I certainly wish people tried and even got half of the way there, it would be an improvement on a lot of the gut instincts of many of the people opining today.


  7. says:

    12th book for 2020.Ezra Klein s new book offers a fascinating deep dive into the reasons for America s increasingly polarized political discourse According to Klein, polarization in American politics is hardly new and in and of itself not something that should necessarily be lamented Klein posits that the start of polarization was the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which essentially ceded the American South to the Republican Party Prior to this there was relatively little to distinguish the two main political parties in America evidenced by the fact that approximately half the voting population voted for one party at a federal level and the other a state level this statistic has now flipped with 97% of voters consistently voting for a single party at both state and federal levels in another statistic Klein shows how even independent voters vote now like partisan voters of yesteryear As the party s identities have continued to coalesce around a core set of values, party allegiance has become literally a form of identity politics This has been exacerbated by both our primate brains seeing all things in the world through a tribal filter, and by the increasing fragmentation of our media landscape However, as Klein rightly points out this polarization has not affected the two parties equally Whereas demographic forces force the Democratic Party to remain something of a broad church, the Republican Party has increasingly contracted into upon a much narrower base, which reflects its increasing extreme positions race and immigration Klein ends this analysis by examining how US political structures especially the division of power between Congress, the Senate and the Presidency, something unique to functioning Western democracies may actually lead to greater polarization and gridlock Klein chilling points out that the US Presidential system has ultimately failed in every other country that has tried to enact it.What this book shows clearly is that Trump and the current Republican Party are not the aberration that they are often portrayed as, but are a natural outcome of increasingly tribalized politics over the last fifty years How this situation can be fixed is left as an exercise to readers 4 stars.


  8. says:

    Ezra Klein surveys quite a bit of political science and political psychology literature to explain the partisan polarization of the past fifty years The key is identity not identity in terms of specific marginal groups that is the usual focus but identity, in general, it s an integral part of every person s psychology and how it relates to partisan politics You see people are social animals meant to work together and intensely identify with a group that we share things in common Markers of identity can be anything like race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion but identity can be tied to almost any aspect of our lives, where we live, our hobbies, our interests, occupation, music tastes and even sports teams in fact on the last one sports team identification has lead people to riot with body counts and all One form of identification that has a dangerous salience is party and ideological identification this is mostly natural but in the past ideology and party was not linked back in the day there was a lot of overlap ideologically between parties when it was common for there to be liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats After the Democrats passed the civil rights bill conservative southern democrats joined the Republicans and liberal Republicans were jettisoned from the party So now we have a situation where party and ideology are linked and Democrats and Republican partisanship became a lot salient Other factors linked to temperament linked ideology to a whole other host of identities and clustered into two mega identities around party this seems to happen in all western countries but our system of government was designed by the founders who hated faction and unfortunately the way they designed our system is such that it can t handle strong partisan faction well and is now after a long lucky run is starting to be beset by partisan gridlock and dysfunction Klien covers a lot of ground and he is a liberal and I am to the left than him so I don t agree with everything but his analysis is right in many parts.


  9. says:

    Finished this book a week ago and am still thinking about the convincing case it makes I don t agree with Ezra Klein on everything, but I agreed with his conclusions and appreciated his thoughtful, meticulous approach to answering the titular question The rationale behind the current state of the Republican Party, and the scale of the challenge facing Democrats, are thoroughly clarified here In Klein s words If we can t reverse polarization, as I suspect, then the path forward is clear we need to reform the political system so it can function amid polarization The specific democracy reform proposals he goes on to argue for are exactly the right way to think about rebuilding American democracy post Trump.


  10. says:

    So I decided last March that I was going to go back to grad school after having been out since 2005 When I met with my former adviser and asked for tips on who what where I should be paying attention as I started to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, she suggested three podcasts One of which is Ezra Klein show I have listened to the majority of his shows since April and have read books by several of his guests in the past 10 months I really like Klein s view point in general and tend to agree with his politics, so I was excited to grab his book when it came out.First, I should put out there that I am not a political junkie I used to be a sociologist with a focus on social psychology MS and almost PhD and am currently in a MSW program I am interested in politics and in policy, but I tend not be enad with the minutia of political theory And Klein write about politics, but the majority of his argument is focused on identity and the ways in which both the American political structure and the media have created feedback loops with modern Americans that further polarize all of it individuals, politics, and the media.That said, he does provide a great historical look at the parties and the ways they have changed become less strong while simultaneously polarized within themselves over the years He also does a very good job of specifying the context in which our identities become activated and the ways in which they can affect our behavior I like all the social psychological research and references, but I was floored that Klein left out social effervescence Going back to Durkheim, there is theory and data about the emotive reaction we have in large groups Klein goes to great length to try to create a sports analogy even while being careful to acknowledge his own lack of sports feelings , but neglects to consider that being in a large crowd of people all cheering for the same thing whether it is during a religious, political, sports, or pop singer event creates a warm and pleasant feeling This is a HUGE contribution to the group effects that he goes to great length to discuss.As always with these kinds of books, there is a lot of repetition in part because an author is making their point over and over and in part because they want to appeal to larger audiences , but I found the feedback loop as we are polarized, the parties become polarized to appeal to the voters and the ratings fueled media focuses on conflict and further polarization which creates individual polarizing which to be over emphasized I also wanted to agree with other reviewers criticisms that Klien s political values show through They absolutely do In the beginning when he is mostly focused on history he manages to appear less partisan However, by the end of the book, he has reached the point of Democrats are inoculated by diversity which I think is correct , but then goes on to essentially explain how and why Republicans have no rational choice incentive to stop manipulating the system to hold on to power This is all true and certainly relates to his identity argument which also hinders on the idea that the American system is not currently broken, it is just working towards extremes , but reads as a huge slap at the Republican party I get why those who tend to vote Republican might be upset and write off his proposals for change After all, why shouldn t they do whatever they can to hold on to power Finally, I like a lot of his suggestions for change He suggest that we need to remove some long term fiscal planning from yearly Congress votes using automatic economic stabilizers and eliminating the debt ceiling, eliminate the electoral college, change representation in the House such that ranked choice voting is used rather than winner take all in small districts, add seats in the Senate for DC and Puerto Rico, eliminate the filibuster, and overhaul the gerrymandering and voter restriction that makes so many people s votes not count I would add to this the re enfranchisement of formerly incarcerated folks and elimination of poll taxes that link to court fees as well as re districting so populations of jails do not count towards representation in areas where the jails are held Those folks should either not count since they can t vote or be counted in their previous residence because that is where they will go back to living when they are released.Overall, it is a very approachable book I didn t feel like I learned a lot, but I was entertained throughout and I think that the book is read able for the average job and not geared towards political junkies or academics.


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Why Were Polarized Discover How American Politics Became A Toxic System, Why We Participate In It, And What It Means For Our Future From Journalist, Political Commentator, And Cofounder Of Vox, Ezra KleinAfter Election Day , Both Supporters And Opponents Of The Soon To Be President Hailed His Victory As A Historically Unprecedented Event Most Americans Could Agree That No Candidate Like Donald Trump Had Ever Been Elected President Before But Political Journalist Ezra Klein Makes The Case That The Election Wasn T Surprising At All In Fact, Trump S Electoral Victory Followed The Exact Same Template As Previous Elections, By Capturing A Nearly Identical Percentage Of Voter Demographics As Previous Republican CandidatesOver The Past Years In America, Our Partisan Identities Have Merged With Our Racial, Religious, Geographic, Ideological, And Cultural Identities Those Merged Identities Have Attained A Weight That Is Breaking Much In Our Politics And Tearing At The Bonds That Hold This Country TogetherIn This Groundbreaking Book, Klein Shows How And Why American Politics Polarized Around Identity In The Th Century, And What That Polarization Did To The Way We See The World And Each Other And He Traces The Feedback Loops Between Our Polarized Political Identities And Our Polarized Political Institutions That Are Driving Our Political System Towards CrisisNeither A Polemic Nor A Lament, Klein Offers A Clear Framework For Understanding Everything From Trump S Rise To The Democratic Party S Leftward Shift To The Politicization Of Everyday Culture A Revelatory Book That Will Change How You Look At Politics, And Perhaps At Yourself