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Why We're Polarized

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,697 ratings  ·  268 reviews
Discover how American politics became a toxic system, why we participate in it, and what it means for our futurefrom journalist, political commentator, and cofounder of Vox, Ezra Klein.

After Election Day 2016, both supporters and opponents of the soon-to-be president hailed his victory as a historically unprecedented event. Most Americans could agree that no candidate
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Published January 28th 2020 by Simon Schuster Audio
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Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Why Were Polarized sets out to succinctly break down why American politics has become so dysfunctional over the past forty years. The book begins by offering an oversimplified account of the fall of the New Deal coalition in the 1960s, then pivots to arguing that the subsequent party realignment along geographic and racial lines can largely be explained by the psychology of tribalism and white anxiety about Americas shifting demographics. Klein writes snappy prose thats easy to read, and for ...more
David Wineberg
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Politics uses us for its own ends

There are endless shelves of books on what has happened to politics in the USA, culminating in the rule of Trump. Most of them hit on polarization sooner or later. Ezra Kleins book totally focuses on it, but in ways that are more engaging, relatable and relevant than many others I have read. It is thorough, fair, reflective, cautious and accurate. And therefore depressing.

Why Were Polarized has an overall umbrella theory: Politics uses us for its own ends. We
Dec 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My review is also published on Medium:

I've been waiting for this book ever since Ezra Klein first mentioned he was working on it during one of his podcast episodes. As the title explains, Klein's book tells the story of how and why the United States is currently a polarized nation. Klein defines polarization as the phenomenon when the opinions of the public change which results in them splitting and gathering around two ideological poles leaving no true
Ezra Klein does pick a side, but his great gift is disengagement to the extent we can see how ordinary Americans got to where they are ideologically. It is not enough to point to our sources of news and draw conclusions from that, though that is clearly a factor. He points to the way political and non-political people experience politics: the least engaged voters tend to look at politics through the lens of material self-interest (What will this policy do for me?) while the most engaged look at ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really like Ezra Klein--he's a really smart and generous guy. This book is calm and it's insightful and it really points to some of the troubling polarizations of our era. And in explaining them, he doesn't point fingers and the obvious culprits, but roots his analysis in human nature and large structural changes to political parties and elections.
Dee Arr
Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
What began as a mostly balanced examination of why Americans are polarized transformed into multiple attacks on everything on the Right. It was almost as if two books had been written.

In the first half, author Ezra Klein seemed to try hard to be fair in his analysis, although from time to time he did inject his own political views. I concentrated on considering if the information Mr. Klein presented made sense, allowing his examples to strengthen his point that as our identities (everything we
Jason Furman
The mere existence of Ezra Kleins outstanding and compulsively readable account of the rise and consequences of polarization is a paradox. Klein creatively synthesizes a wide range of social science literature, mostly from political science and social psychology, combing it with his own extensive first hand observation of American politics in a book that is sympathetic to a wide range of perspectives without suffering from the traps of naked partisanship on the one hand or false equivalences on ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, politics, usa, trump
12th book for 2020.

Ezra Klein's new book offers a fascinating deep dive into the reasons for America's increasingly polarized political discourse.

According to Klein, polarization in American politics is hardly new and in-and-of-itself not something that should necessarily be lamented. Klein posits that the start of polarization was the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which essentially ceded the American South to the Republican Party. Prior to this there was relatively little to
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Ezra Klein surveys quite a bit of political science and political psychology literature to explain the partisan polarization of the past fifty years. The key is identity not identity in terms of specific marginal groups that is the usual focus but identity, in general, it's an integral part of every person's psychology and how it relates to partisan politics. You see people are social animals meant to work together and intensely identify with a group that we share things in common. Markers of ...more
I have read many books that attempt to explain the current nightmare of American politics.
Klein's book is one of the best. It is well researched and accessible. He provides a clear comprehensive
historical analysis of the shift from bi-partisan to polarized partisan politics. He also examines numerous studies of group think and identity sorting which he believes underlie this behavior. He examines the fear underpinning the" Trump phenomena" and the undemocratic practices of the Republican party.

Whitney Milam
Finished this book a week ago and am still thinking about the convincing case it makes. I don't agree with Ezra Klein on everything, but I agreed with his conclusions  and appreciated his thoughtful, meticulous approach to answering the titular question. The rationale behind the current state of the Republican Party, and the scale of the challenge facing Democrats, are thoroughly clarified here. In Klein's words: "If we can't reverse polarization, as I suspect, then the path forward is clear: we ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So I decided last March that I was going to go back to grad school (after having been out since 2005). When I met with my former adviser and asked for tips on who/what/where I should be paying attention as I started to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, she suggested three podcasts. One of which is Ezra Klein show. I have listened to the majority of his shows since April and have read books by several of his guests in the past 10 months. I really like Klein's view point in general and ...more
Andrew Garvin
In high school, a friend of mine (now a rabble-rousing scholar and critic) and I had a bright idea: Lets watch the OReilly Factor for a month. Lets understand what the other side is hearing. This was post-9/11 in the run-up to the Iraq War. We were galvanized.

I had to stop. It was melting my mind. None of OReillys arguments are smart or genuine. Its all facile, motivated reasoning. I found myself taking for granted the underlying facts of his positions, only to often discover they were made up.

Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ezra Klein is one of the best political analysts of my generation, and is quickly becoming one of our most important public intellectuals. The Ezra Klein Show produces top-quality audio content several times a week, and Kleins keen interviewing skills, nuanced articulations of complex problems, and commitment to structural analysis are second to none. Ive been anticipating the release of Why Were Polarized for many months, and Im pleased to report that it constitutes a vital contribution to ...more
Bruce Katz
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
A brilliant, eye-opening, and very thought-provoking look at our current dysfunctional politics, how we got to this awful place, and why we're likely to stay here for a long time. As others have pointed out, Klein begins by explaining why the period of relative peace between the parties (idealized in the Reagan-O'Neill sit-down of the 80s) was an anomaly. From this starting point he examines the many factors that are driving polarization. He reviews the psychological literature on identity ...more
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ezra Klein details how our partisan divide that permeates every aspect of politics and even every day life wasnt always this way. As our political parties have grown apart ideologically, we have become more deeply entrenched in our camps. Klein doesnt give that much of a prescription for bringing us back together, but this is a fascinating analysis on how political partisanship is tearing us apart. ...more
Rahul  Adusumilli
Ezra Klein, unlike Corn Pop, is a very smart man. However, I didn't care a lot for the psychological studies he quotes. Citing psychological studies is a trope that's been done to death. It's like when Economics tries to take refuge in Math. You can't argue with Math!, they seem to be saying. Bah. I liked the book much better when it's looking at things through a historical angle and when it's bringing up work done by other Political Scientists.

Ted Cruz called Trump a pathological liar, utterly
Melissa Stacy
"Why We're Polarized," by Ezra Klein, (first published January 28, 2020), is an absolutely wonderful read. A great book for history buffs, policy wonks, laypeople, Twitter enthusiasts, social media users, and anyone concerned about the modern state of American politics, the prose is fluid and accessible, and the content is important and needed.

The book defines "polarization" as simply having a population divided around two poles. Polarization is not equal to "extremism." Extremism and
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for how thought-provoking this book was. I didnt agree with everything in here e.g. social psych studies tend to make me side-eye a bit, unless theyve been replicated to the hills but his core arguments resonate: group identities matter, they matter exponentially more when overlaid on each other (as they often are today), a two-party political system lends itself more to polarisation by overlaid identity, and polarisation is getting worse through institutional feedback loops.

Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The audiobook of this was very well read. I think the book itself was a good collection of ideas, but it didn't necessarily present any new ideas. Definitely well articulated, though, and I liked that he offered some concrete ways in which our Democracy could become more democratic at the end. It's nice to have the veneer of a solution.

Would recommend to people on "both" sides of the aisle, but don't think that its very likely to be read that way.
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
This is a helpful examination of how and why the United States is politically polarized, which is important to understand as we move forward. It synthesizes a good deal of modern political science and psychology to give a relatively fair assessment and though Ezra is certainly liberal, hes fair and sympathetic to conservatives as well. (9/10) ...more
Paul Froehlich
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Republicans and Democrats are more polarized than at any time since the Civil War. Facebook users regularly encounter this partisan divide -- unless they have already unfriended people from the other party. This reviewer has a unique view of partisanship in that I was elected to the Illinois House as both a Republican and as a Democrat.

The co-founder of Vox, Ezra Klein gives a cogent explanation about how elephants and donkeys became so sharply divided that we can no longer have civil
Avolyn Fisher
"...But toxic systems compromise good individuals with ease. They do so not by demanding we betray our values but by enlisting our values such that we betray each other. What's rational and even moral for us to do individually, becomes destructive when done collectively."

I think the question, how did America become so polarized, is a question nearly every person I know has asked themselves in recent years. A question that was further exacerbated by the 2016 Presidential election and the
Rishabh Srivastava
I am regular listener to Ezra Klein's podcast, and was flummoxed when he announced the book. His company, Vox, is one of the more polarizing media outlets on the left. In some of this podcasts on The Weeds, Klein used to explicitly include as a section that was effectively 'How will Republicans abuse this' for assessing policy proposals.

The book repeatedly reflects the author's biases. There were token acknowledgements of how the problem runs on both sides, but they were swiftly followed up by
Simon Power
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well articulated book on the current political climate within the United States.

As an avid follower of politics in the USA and UK, I found this book particularly enjoyable, specifically with respect to how historical events (particularly post-civil rights movement) have shaped todays political and social polarization.

The book satisfyingly confirms many of my previous thoughts regarding polarization and the state of the Republican party. While I agree with many of the remedies that the
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I highly highly recommend this book to everyone stressed out about the state of politics and especially as social media gets vicious during the primary and general election this year. Consider, what identities are being activated by what you're reading? Do your beliefs drive your identity, or have you been co opted into an identity that determines your beliefs? Consider that you may be manipulated. Be mindful.
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5ish. Full review coming shortly. The short of it: I felt like I got his thoughts/ideas better in listening to his podcasts over this book. Will link to episodes.
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best, most succinct books about whats wrong with American politics Ive ever read. Definitely recommend. ...more
Kent Winward
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
There wasn't a lot new here, but it was valuable for raising the question about how we should start talking about polarization. We need to do that and we need to look at our systems to eliminate the negative impacts of polarized thinking and intriguingly, accentuating the positive aspects. Probably the best advice is start local in our political thinking and action and stop thinking national.
Aysja Johnson
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book covers a lot of ground and goes into quite a bit of detail for each chapter. In the interest of making this somewhat succinct Im going to outline what I think his major points were.

1. American politics has become more polarized because its increasingly merged with our identities, which have also been increasingly merging into mega-identities.

2. American politics was less polarized pre 1960s because of the Dixiecrats.

3. Feedback loops are making everything worse.

4. Politics is less
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“The fact that voters ultimately treated Trump as if he were just another Republican speaks to the enormous weight party polarization now exerts on our politics—a weight so heavy that it can take an election as bizarre as 2016 and jam the result into the same grooves as Romney’s contest with Obama or Bush’s race against Kerry. We are so locked into our political identities that there is virtually no candidate, no information, no condition, that can force us to change our minds. We will justify almost anything or anyone so long as it helps our side, and the result is a politics devoid of guardrails, standards, persuasion, or accountability.” 3 likes
“Unfortunately, the term “identity politics” has been weaponized. It is most often used by speakers to describe politics as practiced by members of historically marginalized groups. If you’re black and you're worried about police brutality, that’s identity politics. If you’re a woman and you’re worried about the male-female pay gap, that’s identity politics. But if you’re a rural gun owner decrying universal background checks as tyranny, or a billionaire CEO complaining that high tax rates demonize success, or a Christian insisting on Nativity scenes in public squares — well, that just good, old fashioned politics. With a quick sleight of hand, identity becomes something that only marginalized groups have.

The term “identity politics,” in this usage, obscures rather than illuminates; it’s used to diminish and discredit the concerns of the weaker groups by making them look self-interested, special pleading in order to clear the agenda for the concerns of stronger groups, which are framed as more rational, proper topics for political debate. But in wielding identity as a blade, we have lost it as a lens, blinding ourselves in a bid for political advantage. WE are left searching in vaid for what we refuse to allow ourselves to see.”
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