Articles or Papers on depolarizing the US?
June 28, 2015 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm tired of reading about how congressional gridlock is the result of increasing political and media polarization. That much is obvious. What I'm interested in knowing is, what proposals are there to end or ameliorate this trend in American culture and politics? Who's thinking about this and writing articles or white papers? What ideas have been floated?

Please note, I'm not looking for your personal opinions (even though I'm sure they're great!). I'm looking for well-written articles, papers, blog posts, etc. where folks are proposing specific actions that can help heal the divide, or at least restore a semblance of civility that would allow for occasional compromise in the political sphere.
posted by chrisamiller to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The bipartisanpolicy center does a lot of work in this area. Last year they released a report with a list of recommendations They also have a goodhealthy Congress index that uses metrics to track congresses year to year in terms of relative "health" of productivity and bipartisanship.
posted by Karaage at 7:43 PM on June 28, 2015

Best answer: I should stop posting from the phone. The report link is here.
posted by Karaage at 7:49 PM on June 28, 2015

Best answer: The last part of It's Even Worse Than It Looks suggests various fixes to the problems identified in the first part.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:11 PM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It might be helpful for you to start with a backgrounder on the origins of our recent political polarization, which is based on political parties becoming more monolithic, rather than the Democratic Party being an amalgamation of conservative white southerners and union members and city dwellers of the industrialized north, and the Republicans being a combination of anti-Union business interests, northeastern liberals, and Midwestern progressives. As parties become more about a single platform that all their members mostly agree on, polarization by political affiliation increases.
posted by deanc at 8:12 PM on June 28, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, this is basically the same thing as asking what the origins of polarization are, since you can't reduce it unless you have a decent causal model suggesting what buttons to push. The tl;dr is that we don't have a great handle on it yet but that two things seem to be happening -- the American population and the population of activists is sorting and polarizing, and that congressional leaders have more power over the legislative process so many votes that would reveal moderation just never take place.

I can't directly suggest anything useful unless you want to read the academic literature on this, which won't be much fun unless you like reading highly quantitative social science. Sean Theriault's book is relatively accessible and reader-friendly, but only relatively. I've not read the Mann and Ornstein book, but have heard good things about it for a popular-press book.

Indirectly the most important thing to do is IGNORE THE PUNDITS. They will tell you over and over again that it's because of gerrymandering, which is one of the few things we can categorically state is not involved in more than a trivial way. People who know a thing or two about this are, in no particular order and just off the top of my head, Keith Poole, Gary Jacobson, Steve Ansolabehere, Jim Snyder, Sean Theriault, Jon Bond, Dave Rohde, Jim Fowler, Nolan McCarty, Jamie Carson. The more generic heavy hitters on Congress -- Steve Smith for the House and Sarah Binder for the Senate -- will also know a thing or two even if this particular stuff isn't quite their bag. Anyway, looking for op-eds or blog entries they've written might lead you to good works.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:25 PM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are several law professors out there who write on the "law of democracy" and its pernicious influence on our democracy. Richard Pildes is one (here's a recent paper on SSRN about polarization) but his frequent collaborators Sam Issacharoff and Pam Karlan are also smart on this subject.
posted by saladin at 5:03 AM on June 29, 2015

Best answer: Oh, and Larry Lessig's book Republic, Lost deals with this in part, and includes a pretty radical proposal for reform at the end.
posted by saladin at 5:04 AM on June 29, 2015

Best answer: Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin have proposed a "Deliberation Day" national holiday in which people talk face-to-face about the issues in an upcoming election. Their book. Some researchers held a prototype deliberation day in Boulder and Colorado Springs and found that deliberation among like minded people can increase polarization.

In, Cass Sunstein suggests restructuring the internet so that links and content from opposing views would be forced to appear on web pages. He backed off that position in the second edition 2.0.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:16 AM on June 29, 2015

Response by poster: All great suggestions, and I've got a pretty good reading list together from this. Thanks to all!
posted by chrisamiller at 10:39 AM on July 31, 2015

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