Looking Left and Right: Is Polarization Our Best Choice? Pt 3



Higher (and lower) education may be failing all of us, but partisanship has more power to make smart people seem stupid




What we’ve been doing—and not—matters. It matters today and its unchecked continuance will matter much more in the days ahead as the divide widens and problems become more intractable and unsolvable. Is that the fallback position?

There are other hurdles beyond attempts at engaging in more productive discussions with voting peers and the urgency of persuading elected officials to revise their approach to governing [or, for some, non-governing]….Questioning the continuing utility and value of the intentionally-placed obstacles might be a good place to start, however.

As for other barriers standing in the way of cooperation and progress on the political and cultural fronts, human nature is what it is. But recognizing how our individual tendencies and instinctive behaviors impact our reactions, actions, and decisions might open a door ever so slightly to different reactions and responses instead of those automatic ones which tend to create more of the same. So far, that “same” isn’t working out so well for anyone but the few who already impose more than their fair share of political influence upon the rest of us.

Their interests rarely cross paths with our own….




The tautological reason polarization has increased in American politics is that over the past four decades, conflict in American politics has increasingly operated along a single dimension: Republican versus Democrat. A large number of issues that were once nonpartisan or non-ideological have become partisan issues. Almost every policy has now been swept into the maw of partisan jockeying, leaving almost no space for the cross-partisan cooperation our political system relies on to function.

What to do? If we don’t change—both sides and all of us, then who wins? Who does not?

Competition fuels party conflict by raising the political stakes of every policy dispute. When control of national institutions hangs in the balance, no party wants to grant political legitimacy to its opposition by voting for the measures it champions. After all, how can a party wage an effective campaign after supporting or collaborating with its opposition on public policy? Instead, parties in a competitive environment will want to amplify the differences voters perceive between themselves and their opposition. They will continually strive to give voters an answer to the key question: “Why should you support us instead of them?” Even when the parties do not disagree in substantive terms, they still have political motivations to actively seek and find reasons to oppose one another.
Two factors have produced our polarized politics. First, changing social conditions and government actions have combined to prompt fundamental disagreements about what and how much government should do. Second, a long-term realignment brought this debate into sharp focus. In short, today’s polarization is the product of today’s issues and yesterday’s political realignment.

When each side is building a fortress of values, opinions, beliefs, principles, and presumed facts completely isolated from the great middle where all is not quite so cut and dry, polarization is inevitable. And with polarization leading the way, how does essential problem-solving take place?


NOTE: This series runs on Thursdays


~ My Photo: Along the South Boston Harborwalk – 06.12.16  ©


Looking Left and Right:
Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows

Be the change you want in the world Gandhi

The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, but because
of those who look at it without doing anything Albert Einstein


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As I state in the “About Me” section, I’m driven by an intense commitment to learn why those on the conservative side of the fence view so many matters of great importance to us all so differently than do those of us on the progressive side. Those contrasting behaviors, beliefs, and ideologies are contributing factors to the very problems we’re trying to solve—the ones we must solve if our own ambitions and our hopes for a peaceful and prosperous world we leave to our children are to be well-served.

If we don’t recognize and accept that bitter partisanship is not always the wisest or most beneficial strategy, the goal of a better future will forever be as far away tomorrow as it is today.

The late Senator Paul Wellstone’s observation continues to hold far more truth and power than we give it credit:

We all do better when we all do better

Why make setting up inevitable and enduring conflict the primary objective of policy and planning?


* I invite you to enjoy my two books [here and here], and to view my other   blogs–at this website [see below] and also at Peak Oil Matters

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Life Will Answer Thought-provoking inquiries & observations about how (and why) Life does … and does not, work for everyone. [Inspired by my book of the same name].