Great interview of Jon Haidt, author of forthcoming book ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion‘ with Bill Moyers, on the polarization of US politics at:
Our country is more politically polarized than ever. Is it possible to agree to disagree and still move on to solve our massive problems? Or are the blind leading the blind — over the cliff? Bill and moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries. “When it gets so that your opponents are not just people you disagree with, but… the mental state in which I am fighting for good, and you are fighting for evil, it’s very difficult to compromise,” Haidt tells Moyers. “Compromise becomes a dirty word.”
Jon interestingly sees three main causes for US political polarization in historical terms. (His Moral Foundations Model provides deeper insight too: http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/mft/index.php )
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 sent the Southern Democrats, who had been Democrats since the Civil War, essentially because Lincoln was a Republican, into the Republican Party, so that the Republicans and Democrats no longer had variety within their ranks but were polarized.
- Second World War generation learned of necessity to cooperate across political divisions and as they passed into old age, they were replaced by baby boomers who had a Manichean view of the world as good versus evil and their political opponents are essentially evil
- Geographically Sorting: increasingly political and socially minded families and individuals cluster in communities of like minded individuals so they never meet people with different political, social or religious views so are unable to experience that those they differ from are actually good people, just trying to get by, like themselves.