Last week I read two books — Supreme Inequality and Why We’re Polarized in order understand the current American political landscape. This article covers some of my inklings about Why We’re Polarized. The book is well researched, written in an engaging way and uncovers some fundamental issues with American political system.
#The Polarization Problem We no longer have conservatives and liberals on both sides of the aisle, but we are locked in to our political identities. Our choices are no longer affected by candidates, and information. We have devolved in a bi-party politics which has no guardrails, standards or accountability. Politicians have ingrained behaviors to appeal to polarized public using polarization which in turn causes more polarization. We no longer use politics to our own end, in-fact politics is using us to its own end.
If you remember from high-school focusing on common enemies was the best way to make friends. The last 50 years of American politics is something like that we don’t vote the party we like but we do so because we don’t like the other party — sad but true!
#Identity Politics One of the core arguments of this book is that everyone engaged in American politics is engaged in identity politics. Identity is fundamental to us has humans, in few moments every conversation becomes rooted in our identity. But having said that, what has really happened is that this term has been weaponized. If you are African American talking about gun rights, or if you are women talking about pay discrimination — that is identity politics. However if you are a white American talking about gun rights, then thats just plain old politics. Its unfortunate that we have associate identities to only marginal groups.
As an example the author talks about study done by a Stanford professor in which he discovered that a college application is more likely to accepted if the applicant mentioned their affiliation with Democratic or Republican party and the the committee member happened to align with that party! The way identity politics has played has really hurt the marginalized group and in-fact the only keeper of that — The American Supreme court has becoming a tool of inequality in last 50 years. The book Supreme Inequality goes in depth on what has the dismantling of Warren Court & advent of Nixon court has led to in modern America.
#Is there a solution? Lets first start with what is not a solution. Replacing people who run a system is not a solution. What happens is classic systemic problem — you replace the people expecting they will change the system but soon enough you find that they become part o the System. The author knows Republicans who though voted for McCain felt hopeful about Obama — only to realize that he was yet another Democrat. Ezra Klein is co-founder of Vox and as he states in the book he has more confidence in his diagnosis than the prescription. In the concluding chapter (there are 10 in total) he outline a few bullet points — we should consider undoing the electoral college system given that by 2030 80% of America will live in Urban areas, the supreme court needs more justices — 5 by Republican party, 5 by Democratic and another 5 appointed by the rest of 10 judges, the republican party needs to re-invent itself and forgo a majoritarian agenda and embrace a more broad coalition, last but not least promotion of identity mindfulness — become aware of how politicians and media manipulate us using our identities.
#Read It! Ezra is a super engaging author and numerous times in this book he uses data and research to substantiate his point in a rational way. I highly recommend this book!