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Why We're Polarized

por Ezra Klein

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244783,198 (4.29)6
The New York Times Bestseller The Wall Street Journal Bestseller "Few books are as well-matched to the moment of their publication as Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized." --Dan Hopkins, The Washington Post "It is likely to become the political book of the year....Powerful [and] intelligent." --Fareed Zakaria, CNN "Superbly researched and written..." --Francis Fukuyama, The Washington Post America's political system isn't broken. The truth is scarier: it's working exactly as designed. In this book, journalist Ezra Klein reveals how that system is polarizing us--and how we are polarizing it--with disastrous results. "The American political system--which includes everyone from voters to journalists to the president--is full of rational actors making rational decisions given the incentives they face," writes political analyst Ezra Klein. "We are a collection of functional parts whose efforts combine into a dysfunctional whole." In Why We're Polarized, Klein reveals the structural and psychological forces behind America's descent into division and dysfunction. Neither a polemic nor a lament, this book offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump's rise to the Democratic Party's leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture. America is polarized, first and foremost, by identity. Everyone engaged in American politics is engaged, at some level, in identity politics. Over the past fifty years in America, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. These merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking much in our politics and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together. Klein shows how and why American politics polarized around identity in the twentieth century, and what that polarization did to the way we see the world and one another. And he traces the feedback loops between polarized political identities and polarized political institutions that are driving our system toward crisis. This is a revelatory book that will change how you look at politics, and perhaps at yourself.… (mais)
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Sometimes fascinating. Sometimes maddening. ( )
  joyblue | Jan 3, 2021 |
I find most political theory books to be fairly forgettable, full of just-so stories. It seems too easy to explain the past, picking and choosing from polls and statistics to make your points. Still, the first few chapters of this book were surprisingly good. But by chapter 5 or 6, about halfway through, the story loses momentum. Klein is a little bit too eager to explain things with unconvincing and probably irreproducible social science experiments, and the shtick gets old. The conclusion chapter, on "fixes," is just awful and poorly thought out, as Klein himself admits.

> Over the past fifty years, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. Those merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking our institutions and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together.

> political scientist and statistician Andrew Gelman and business and strategy professor Pierre-Antoine Kremp find that "per voter, whites have 16 percent more power than blacks once the Electoral College is taken into consideration, 28 percent more power than Latinos

> The state parties were organizing politics around lines the national parties were erasing. "The national and state party organizations are largely independent of one another, each operating within its own sphere, without appreciable common approach to problems of party policy and strategy," complained the authors. The US Congress included Democrats more conservative than many Republicans and Republicans as liberal as the most left-leaning Democrats. They were robbing voters of their most valuable opportunity to influence the course of public affairs.

> Dewey thought this a great strength, since "no single religion or color or race or economic interest is confined to one or the other of our parties. Each party is to some extent a reflection of the other.… This is perhaps part of the secret of our enormous power, that a change from one party to the other has usually involved a continuity of action and policy of the nation as a whole on most fundamentals."

> "With both parties including liberals and conservatives within their ranks," he said, "those differences which would otherwise be the main campaign issues are settled by compromise within each party." He warned that "our national unity would be weakened if the theoretical differences were sharpened."

> Goldwater's electoral destruction entrenched the conventional wisdom of the age: ideologues lost elections

> when Gerald Ford ran against Jimmy Carter, only 54 percent of the electorate believed the Republican Party was more conservative than the Democratic Party. Almost 30 percent said there was no ideological difference at all between the two parties

> Looking at districts with contested House races, they found that between 1972 and 1980, the correlation between the Democratic share of the House vote and the Democratic share of the presidential vote was .54. Between 1982 and 1990, that rose to .65. By 2018, it had reached .97!

> between 2000 and 2004, self-proclaimed independents were more stable in which party they supported than self-proclaimed strong partisans were from 1972 to 1976. 13 I want to say that again: today's independents vote more predictably for one party over the other than yesteryear's partisans.

> the southern Democratic Party was an authoritarian institution that ruled autocratically in the South and that protected its autonomy by entering into a governing coalition with the national Democratic Party. The Dixiecrats gave the national Democrats the votes they needed to control Congress, and the national Democrats let the Dixiecrats enforce segregation and one-party rule at home. The Dixiecrat-Democrat pact is a powerful reminder that there are worse things than polarization, that what's now remembered as a golden age in American politics was purchased at a terrible cost.

> They chose to snap their alliance with the Dixiecrats to pursue justice. Bill Moyers, who served as special assistant to Johnson, recalls finding the president brooding in his bedroom the night he signed the Civil Rights Act. "I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come,"

> why didn't Republicans become the party of civil rights? Largely, Kabaservice argues, because of Goldwater: "The credit—even the glory—that the Republican Party should have enjoyed for its support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was effectively negated when its presumptive presidential nominee voted against the measure." And sure enough, Goldwater's stance against civil rights paid dividends. His disastrous presidential campaign succeeded in only one region of the country: the old Confederacy, which realized that the language of small government conservatism could be weaponized against the federal government's efforts to right America's racial wrongs.

> It is not that American politics was not riven by sharp, even violent disagreement in this era; it's simply that these fights did not map cleanly onto party. It couldn't last, and it didn't. The Democratic Party's embrace of civil rights, and the Republican Party's decision to unite behind a standard-bearer who opposed the bill, cleared the way for southern conservatives to join the Republican Party.

> the mid-twentieth century was not an era in which the world outside Washington was either serene or moderate. This was the age of Joseph McCarthy, the Vietnam War, and the draft dodger. It was a time of political assassinations, of civil rights activists being beaten on bridges, of authoritarian rule in the South, of feminists marching in the streets and Native Americans occupying Alcatraz. The irony is that the American political system was most calm and least polarized when America itself seemed to be on the verge of cracking apart.

> When polarization is driven by allegiance to political parties, it can be moderating. Political parties want to win elections, so they try to champion ideas that won't get their candidates crushed at the ballot box. People who aren't attached to one party or the other are free to hold much more unpopular opinions.

> From 1972 to 1984, the average difference between how a state voted in one presidential election and how it voted in the next was 7.7 percentage points. From 2000 to 2012, it was only 1.9 percentage points

> People with what we call a fixed worldview are more fearful of potential dangers, and are likely to prefer clear and unwavering rules to help them navigate all the threats. This mind-set leads them to support social structures in which hierarchy and order prevail, the better to ensure people don't stray too far from the straight and narrow. By contrast, people with what we call a fluid worldview are less likely to perceive the world as dangerous. By extension, they will endorse social structures that allow individuals to find their own way in life

> psychology doesn't predict political opinions among people who don't pay much attention to politics, but it's a powerful predictor of political opinions among those who do.

> We understand reasoning to be an individual act. This is, in many cases, wrong. "The central flaw in the concept of reason that animated the eighteenth-century Enlightenment is that it is entirely individualistic," writes philosopher Joseph Heath. But decades of research has proven that "reason is both decentralized and dispersed across multiple individuals. It is not possible to be rational all by yourself; rationality is inherently a collective project."

> After being exposed to the Spanish speakers on their metro lines for just three days, attitudes on these questions moved sharply rightward: The mostly liberal Democratic passengers had come to endorse immigration policies—including deportation of children of undocumented immigrants—similar to those endorsed by Trump in his campaign.

> For two hundred years, whites in America represented an undisputed politically, economically, and culturally dominant majority. When a political tribe is so overwhelmingly dominant, it can persecute with impunity, but it can also be more generous.

> between 1997 and 2007 with those that didn't. "The increase in polarization was nearly three times as large in the 28 chambers that limited party contributions as it was in the 8 chambers that allowed for unlimited contributions,"

> conservatism isn't, for most people, an ideology. It's a group identity. ( )
  breic | Dec 27, 2020 |
Lots of valuable insights and analysis into the concept of polarization, both historical and of recent vintage. Understanding how our current politics came about is quite the interesting journey, even if the resulting history, and the consequences for our futures, is not terribly inspiring. A solid piece of reporting and analysis. ( )
  RandyRasa | Dec 3, 2020 |
This is one depressing book. The first part of the book shows that the election of trump is not that different from any other election, which kind of startled me since it seems that trump's election could be the beginning of the end of democracy. Klein's information about our proclivity towards partisanship amazed me. I'm always confused at the need to depict some people as the other, and I appreciated the studies he highlighted. He at last shows the extreme partisanship that makes our breaking government different from governments in the past, and at last he gives recommendations. Alas, all the hope he shows through his recommendations is negated by the fact that I can see no way to achieve them in this age of extreme partisanship. One thing we can do is pay more attention to local politics. That's the only small bit of hope I could garner from his ideas. ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Sep 7, 2020 |
Klein is a new public intellectual making a major contribution to journalism. Glad he is out there.

This work starts off with a startling review of how ordinary the Trump election looked by the numbers. The point is that as colossally bad as trump was, and everyone knew it, people today vote my party line. Party has become a major identity.

I docked a star because the middle of the book spent a long time, too long perhaps, establishing the above.

In conclusion, Klein protests he is much more confident making diagnosis than prescription. Which, of course, makes his prescriptions thoughtful and potent. A quick list:

-get rid of the debt ceiling
-can't realistically lose the electoral college so instead support the National Interstate Popular Vote Compact where states throw their electoral college votes to whoever wins the popular vote. We already have 196 of the 270 votes needed
- for the House move to ranked choice voting
- In the Senate get rid of the filibuster
-create automatic voter registration and adopt vote-by-mail systems
-change Supreme Ct to 15 justices, 5 appointed by each party and the last 5 unanimously appointed by the ten partisan justices
-Then, the best one, depolarize yourself and be mindful of when you are being manipulated and overreacting according to how feel you identify. Just two days ago I deleted my Twitter acct. Plan to read local paper for local politics more carefully and lever my conservation NGO positions into real action. ( )
  Mark-Bailey | Aug 7, 2020 |
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The New York Times Bestseller The Wall Street Journal Bestseller "Few books are as well-matched to the moment of their publication as Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized." --Dan Hopkins, The Washington Post "It is likely to become the political book of the year....Powerful [and] intelligent." --Fareed Zakaria, CNN "Superbly researched and written..." --Francis Fukuyama, The Washington Post America's political system isn't broken. The truth is scarier: it's working exactly as designed. In this book, journalist Ezra Klein reveals how that system is polarizing us--and how we are polarizing it--with disastrous results. "The American political system--which includes everyone from voters to journalists to the president--is full of rational actors making rational decisions given the incentives they face," writes political analyst Ezra Klein. "We are a collection of functional parts whose efforts combine into a dysfunctional whole." In Why We're Polarized, Klein reveals the structural and psychological forces behind America's descent into division and dysfunction. Neither a polemic nor a lament, this book offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump's rise to the Democratic Party's leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture. America is polarized, first and foremost, by identity. Everyone engaged in American politics is engaged, at some level, in identity politics. Over the past fifty years in America, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. These merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking much in our politics and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together. Klein shows how and why American politics polarized around identity in the twentieth century, and what that polarization did to the way we see the world and one another. And he traces the feedback loops between polarized political identities and polarized political institutions that are driving our system toward crisis. This is a revelatory book that will change how you look at politics, and perhaps at yourself.

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