1.2. Why Our Politics Are So Polarized

In our current crisis, neither political party is the solution to our problem. They are our problem.

In our current crisis, neither political party is the solution to our problem.

They are our problem.

It’s not just in your head. Study after study over the past few decades has shown that American politics really has become more polarized.

Both parties—especially Republicans—have become more extreme in their views.

Both parties increasingly view the other as a threat to the nation’s well-being.

You can see it in the government shutdowns, the debt limit debates, filibuster reform, the Supreme Court vacancy, and all the other ways they’re pulling out all the stops to thwart the agenda of the other party.

There are several reasons why this is happening now. But even among scholars like myself, the biggest reason isn’t much talked about.

The previous century was when psychology and other social sciences really blossomed.

Advertisers and political consultants have been hard at work applying those findings to get you to give them your vote, and buy their stuff.

America’s had a two-party system for over 150 years, and it’s always been hotly contested. But it’s never been so systematic, scientific, and precise in how it goes about sorting the American people into two roughly equal groups.

With focus groups, polling, voter databases, and all the other innovations that have occurred over the past half century, both parties have gotten really good at pushing our buttons.

They know what issues get us most riled up. They know what positions to take on those issues. They know how to make the other party seem like an existential threat.

They aren’t really trying to represent the whole country, no matter what they say. What they need is 51 percent of the vote. And events have shown that it’s better to mobilize their base, than to reach out to the dwindling numbers of swing voters.

Politicians have become too good at what they do. That’s why this two-party arrangement just isn’t working anymore.

The American people are going to have to bust out of this deadlock, even though there are whole industries devoted to keeping us stuck in it.

American politics is set up right now to put us in an unproductive state of mind, to channel all of our energies into this fifty-fifty stalemate, where 99 percent of what we pour in is cancelled out.

It’s fine to have your beliefs and opinions, and to disagree with others. But don’t let the parties push you into fear, anger, and scapegoating.

Reclaim your state of mind from all the forces trying to make you feel or think a certain way. Take back the space between your ears from all the false, harmful stories that have been dumped into it.

Remember that just because the parties won’t reconcile doesn’t mean the American people can’t.


This is the 14th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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