Ezra Klein has been a journalist for 15 years. He is editor at large and cofounder of Vox, a popular news organization that reaches more than 50 million people each month. In this enlightening work, he offers a trenchant overview of American politics in the last decade.
Analysts of cultural and political developments in the United States note that citizens are increasingly divided into all-liberal or all-conservative groups. The politicians they elect and their votes in Congress are strictly along party lines. This "us versus them" tactic leaves little room for respect or compromise in the Washington corridor.
Using insights from political scientists, media commentators, and cultural critics, Klein shows how in the past Democrats and Republicans separated over their ideas for dealing with specific issues. But now the name of the game is "negative partisanship" where demonstrating antipathy towards the opposing party has assumed top priority. Under this rubric, voters are not driven by in-group favoritism but by anger toward the opposition. As a result, party loyalty is riding high and the split ticket voting is out-of-sight and out-of-mind.
This political season has seen many books on America's political divisions. Klein's ranks as one of the best. His style of explanatory journalism is polished and multidimensional. This is especially true of his analysis of political mega-identities and the media landscape's culpability in spreading the flames of partisan anger.
What Klein describes has been developing for a long time, and it's becoming more evident by the day as Americans approach the 2020 presidential election. In a 2019 article in The New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, stated that this combative environment stems not only from incivility and intolerance but from "contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people's ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is 'the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.' "
We've never forgotten a comment made by a friend who had spent a lot of time in the Middle East. "The problem," she said speaking of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, "is that each side is absolutely convinced the other side wants to annihilate them." Negative partisanship has given way to contempt.
We may not be there yet in the United States, but we are heading in the direction of that kind of polarization. To change this trend, we need to understand what's behind it. With chapters on "The Media Divide beyond Left-Right," "Post-Persuasion Elections," "When Bipartisanship Becomes Irrational," and more topics, Ezra Klein provides some of the best insights you'll ever read into why we're polarized and how we might manage that reality. Read it and work for change!