Jonathan Haidt on the Increasing Polarization of American Politics

Posted by in Civility, Politics, Videos

Here is my most complete talk on the causes of America’s rising political polarization and dysfunction. It’s more pessimistic than my prior talks. I was invited to speak in November at the NYU Law School, at a session hosted by professor Rick Pildes. Pildes wrote a superb law review article in 2011 on the causes of our dysfunction, from an “institutionalist” perspective, looking at Congress and electoral processes: Why the Center Does Not Hold: The Causes of Hyperpolarized Democracy in America

When I first read it, I thought Pildes’s account of the history was enlightening, but I thought he was too negative about the chances for real reform. But I re-read his paper while preparing for this talk, and realized he was right — and prophetic. He predicted that Obama would soon start bypassing congress and implementing policy by regulatory fiat; he predicted that one or both parties would soon start cutting back on the filibuster, unilaterally.

In this talk I integrate moral psychology with recent American history to explain the TEN reasons why America has been getting more polarized — at the elite level AND at the mass (public) level. My talk runs from minute 2 to minute 46, and then there’s commentary from Pildes, then open discussion.

In this talk I integrate moral psychology with recent American history to explain the TEN reasons why America has been getting more polarized — at the elite level AND at the mass (public) level. My talk runs from minute 2 to minute 46, and then there’s commentary from Pildes, then open discussion.

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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One Response to Jonathan Haidt on the Increasing Polarization of American Politics

  1. I just finished listening to the talk and reading Pildes’ paper. The Voting Right Acts was the “cataclysmic” event that gave rise to polarization and resulting dysfunction. I thought it was interesting that Pildes didn’t pursue the idea that racism may underlie polarization and that Haidt didn’t pursue that angle either. (To pursue racism would most likely result in demonization of the racist perspective, a direction neither person wants to pursue.) THE VRA resulted in purification–yes, liberals went one way and conservatives another. But to what degree is the concern for the five or six different moral foundations a rationalization, a justification, for racism, for the “me against my brother; my brother and I against my cousin, my brother, my cousin and I against the stranger” intuition (JH’s word) or passion (David Hume’s word)? It was interesting that Haidt saw our mid-century lack of polarization as an anomaly. Admittedly, he also sees hyperpolarization as unworkable in the long run (and therefore an anomaly in the making). But if you can’t resolve the racism issue (is racism inherent in human nature?), can you resolve the polarization issue?

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