Potential Solutions to the Polarization Problem

Originally published 10/31/2018 on Arc Digital

There has been great interest among the chattering classes concerning the degradation of our democracy. The topics by now are familiar: political polarization, media fragmentation, the culture of outrage and demonization, conspiracy theories, election meddling, tribalism, populism, fake news, echo chambers, incivility, and so on. In many respects, these are overlapping and intersecting maladies. But by far the most significant effect of our polarized moment is the diminishing ability of Congress to address national challenges.

Some of the commentary on this issue is alarmist; some is purely analytical. Only occasionally are solutions actually suggested, such as legislative proposals, partisan crusades, or attitude adjustments. Let us evaluate a few of the solutions—though, fair warning: skepticism is merited.

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Ideology or Problem Solving – Which Will It Be?

A review of
Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats
(Authors: Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins)

Grossman and Hopkins have provided a deep dive into the “symbolic conservativism vs. operational liberalism” phenomenon, also explored a few years ago by Ellis and Stimson. Their main thesis—which they hammer over and over in different aspects of the US political world—is that the Republican Party appeals to voters via high ideological arguments, while the Democratic Party appeals to a variety of groups, promising incremental problem solving.

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How a Conservative Juggernaut May Be Countered

In the political communication business, the “sound bite” mindset persists.    One-liner messaging, carefully formulated to arouse the voter’s emotions within the few seconds of their attention you can realistically get. But the battleground has changed forever.   The combination of the

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