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Why We're Polarized

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  7,877 ratings  ·  1,071 reviews
Discover how American politics became a toxic system, why we participate in it, and what it means for our future—from 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 li
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Published January 28th 2020 by Simon Schuster Audio
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Chloe Landis It's centered around why the U.S. is polarized today so its all U.S. examples. …moreIt's centered around why the U.S. is polarized today so its all U.S. examples. (less)
Michael Mullins Absolutely agree. Just today Tea Party protestors, fueled by the Tweety President, are up in arms because, apparently, they resent their local governm…moreAbsolutely agree. Just today Tea Party protestors, fueled by the Tweety President, are up in arms because, apparently, they resent their local governments doing their level best to keep them alive. The insanity will increase, pandemic or no, and such social stressors as Covid-19 are only going to amplify that effect.(less)

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Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Why We’re 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 America’s shifting demographics. Klein writes snappy prose that’s 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 Klein’s 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 We’re 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 m
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. ...more
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 a
Jason Furman
The mere existence of Ezra Klein’s 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
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.

Andrew Garvin
In high school, a friend of mine (now a rabble-rousing scholar and critic) and I had a bright idea: Let’s watch the O’Reilly Factor for a month. Let’s 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 O’Reilly’s arguments are smart or genuine. It’s all facile, motivated reasoning. I found myself taking for granted the underlying facts of his positions, only to often discover they were mad
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, usa, trump, politics
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 distinguis
Debbie Notkin
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember a political book that has made me think this deeply, or reframe my own perceptions this much. I am only a casual fan of Klein's work, but a friend who is a more committed fan points me to him frequently. I heard Jill Lepore interview him on his own podcast about the book, and I thought it was interesting (I am more than a casual Jill Lepore fan).

Reading the book has been much more powerful for me than hearing him talk about it. Basically, Klein has done the really hard work of
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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: w ...more
Laura Noggle
Sep 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2020
Extremely interesting, and at points, encouraging — especially the part that said people are less religious than at any other time in US history.

This gives me a tiny bit of hope that, no matter who is elected in November, maybe we can all be adults and not let religious beliefs cloud our politics.

Maybe that is too much to ask, but it is 2020.

“So here, then, is the last fifty years of American politics summarized: we became more consistent in the party we vote for not because we came to like ou
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
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 Klein’s keen interviewing skills, nuanced articulations of complex problems, and commitment to structural analysis are second to none. I’ve been anticipating the release of Why We’re Polarized for many months, and I’m pleased to report that it constitutes a vital contribution to ...more
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an insightful look into the state of American politics these days. Klein points out that the political parties contained a wider diversity of liberal and conservative members in the past, which encouraged politicians to be more flexible and more willing to work with those in the other party. Since the 90s, the parties have become more polarized, which leads to more conflict between the parties. In this book, Klein points out how this polarization is pushing the American political system ...more
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Before you read this book, check out Ezra Klein on Ben Shapiro's podcast. YouTube or SoundCloud. Or just listen wherever you get your podcasts.

(Also, I recognize that a lot of people - especially people who would come all the way to goodreads for an Ezra Klein book - are put off by Ben Shapiro. I am, too. In fact, I gave his book one of my five-harshest 1-star ratings: Here,, it's a quick, fun read. Sometimes I go back to it to cheer myself up. ...But the podcast where he interviews Klein: magni
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: what-happened
In “The Chase,” an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard is given a sculpture. At first glance, the sculpture is just a person, but it can be opened and within the person are many small people who represent the different voices that make up an individual. I love that, and I think it’s true.

In Why We’re Polarized, Klein adopts a similar theory about identity, namely that we each have a bunch of them. Klein, for example, is a father, a Californian, a vegan, a journalist, etc. H
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 a
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 forma ...more
Adam Murphy
May 19, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not an analysis so much as a defense of an ideology that is rapidly deteriorating. Ezra Klein is firmly in the center left camp of the Democratic Party, the dreaded PMC class, that is largely high on its own supply of moral superiority. Klein correctly points out that political preference is a lens shaping Americans' view of the world, but Klein cannot take a step back and see how his own ideology is shaping this book and leading to conclusions that are well short of providing answers.

'They are
This is essentially an extended Vox feature article about political polarization. It is not bad as it goes: The author appreciates and explains very well the irrational depths of the problem. Subjectively having just read Matt Taibbi's Hate Inc it just seemed to be a more compelling and exciting depiction of more or less the same phenomenon. Would recommend this book to hardcore political wonks but Taibbi's for casual observers. ...more
Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein

“Why We're Polarized” is a very good book that describes how American politics became toxic and what it means for our future. Host of the Ezra Klein Show, editor-at-large and cofounder of Vox, Ezra Klein provides readers with an insightful and timely book on our political divide. This instructive 336-page book includes the following ten chapters: 1. How Democrats Became Liberals and Republicans Became Conservatives, 2. The Dixiecrat Dilemma, 3. Your Brain on Grou
This book offers an explanation on Trump's election from the perspective of identity politics.

He gives two lens of viewing polarization. Individually, we are divided around big matters like religion as well as trivial differences like where we buy grocery. For politicians, they are motivated by negative partisanship - as long as it's a policy proposed by the other side, whatever my stance is, I am going to vote against it. The divisions are further widened by various institutions, such as media
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess I'm not sure what I expected... I suppose I was hoping to understand what on earth has caused Evangelical Christians (a group famous for their allegiance to a leader who preached humility and self-sacrificing moral purity, and violently decried exploitative commerce) to overwhelmingly align themselves with a President and ideology which falls in direct opposition to those tenets. There is a part of me that refuses to believe that the answer is as simple as racism, intense dislike for Hil ...more
Courtney Ferriter
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
** 4.5 stars **

This book 100% lived up to my fairly high expectations for it. One of my best nonfiction reads of the year.

In this volume, Klein discusses the psychology of group identity formation, the origins of our modern-day political polarization, whether polarization is necessarily a bad thing (as people often assume), how polarization and politics are bound up with our sense of identity, contemporary political gridlock caused by polarization, solutions for polarization on an institutional
Corey Eiseman
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, insightful analysis; exceedingly readable. Highly recommended.
Wick Welker
Klein explains the polarization of American politics in an accurate and concise way.

The first thing I want to say is: read this book. I would follow that up with: Hey, yes I'm talking to you, read this book.

I don't believe Klein has come up with anything entirely new here but the way he presents it is palatable, concise and very easy to understand. If you're even remotely politically aware, you've probably had theories about American polarization kicking around in your head but maybe you haven't
Nov 09, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

I've been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that over 71 million people in this country voted for Trump.

I consume news through various media outlets, liberal and conservative.
Peter Colclasure
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This might be the best book written about our current political climate. Certainly the most level-headed. Ezra Klein, founder of Vox and certified liberal, gives a refreshingly balanced account of the various incentives and phenomena driving polarization. I’m pretty left myself, so caveat re: choir/preaching, but the reason why I think this is a “good” book as opposed to one I merely agree with is that the Republican/conservative perspective gets a fair and empathetic rendering. (It was even rec ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Book duplicates 3 24 Nov 11, 2019 03:53PM  

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“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.”
“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.” 10 likes
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