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Why We're Polarized

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Member Reviews

WHY WE'RE POLARIZED is the book people need to read during this political climate. It explains Klien's perspective in a way that is easy to understand while still managing to engage the reader.
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DNF at 27%. I am a fan of Ezra Klein and Vox so was looking forward to hearing his thoughts in Why We’re Polarized. It may be a matter of timing as I read this leading up to the 2020 election but this isn’t working for me. I guess I already understand a lot of what’s being shared and this doesn’t seem to be answering the questions I really want answered. Having read others’ reviews - I don’t think it’s heading there either. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance reading copy.
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Clearly explains how partisanship has escalated in American politics, particularly on the right, with the civil rights movement as dividing line.
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I love Ezra Klein and listen to his podcast regularly. Why We're Polarized dives into the key issue of our time. With people becoming more polarized based on ideological lines, democracy is at risk. This is a "must read" for the 2020 election cycle.

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
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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 need to reform the political system so it can function amid polarization." The specific democracy reform proposals he goes on to argue for are exactly the right way to think about rebuilding American democracy post-Trump.
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This is the only book you need in 2020. I've read several books recently about "red vs blue," "how Trump has changed things," etc. All of these authors want to dial into certain political policies as the smoking gun. What Klein does is take things to a bigger level. Boiled down politics is more like sports and we want to root for the home team. Includes interesting studies about human thought in addition to looking at media, policy, and more. Don't get bogged down with other books and get this one.
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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 moderates in the country.

Klein addresses how did the US transition from a depolarized mid 20th Century to a polarized 21st Century. One of the biggest reasons has to do with the issue of race and how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought about a realignment between the Democrats and Republicans.

I love that Klein makes it clear from the beginning that this is a book about how systems cause polarization rather than people. He shows this by referencing high quality research across different fields of study (political science, psychology, sociology, and history). One of the fascinating studies that he mentions in the book to explain how bad polarization has become dealt with college scholarships. The study found committee members were less likely to vote to give a scholarship to a student if they were of a different political party than the committee member.

Klein also effectively shows how policy issues such as the individual mandate for health insurance, cap and trade, and Russian aggression have become polarizing. Using history he shows that the political party that once supported these issues came out in opposition once the opposing political party came out in favor of the policy.

Klein concludes his book advocating for reforms not to end polarization but to help the country adapt to it. I have heard of many of the solutions that he proposes such as eliminating the filibuster and the Electoral College and adding more justices to the Supreme Court. I found the proposals that were new to me to be interesting such as automatic economic stabilizers and multi member congressional districts in conjunction with ranked choice voting.

Ultimately, Klein's book should be read by all concerned citizens and policy makers who are interested in reading a non-academic book on the roots of polarization and are interested in creating systems within the government to lessen the negative effects of polarization.

Thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press for the free ARC copy in exchange for a honest review.
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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 are that is primarily considered non-political) activate under one umbrella (our political identity), they become stronger. In his own words, “Our political identities have become political mega-identities.” Further into the book, Mr. Klein makes the point even clearer when referring to his own opinions: “I can’t tell you that’s not just my motivated reasoning in action.” But the main thrust of the first half of the book is not to point at each of us and show us how we each rationalize to support our beliefs. The question is what this behavior means and how it affects all of us.	

The author traces the initial split - over half a century ago - to a time when conservatives and liberals were part of both major parties. The lines are more clearly drawn today, and I can’t remember recently seeing anyone identified as a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat. The author presents a multitude of facts, surveys, and tests that support what happened politically in America and why we are more divided than ever. If I would have been highlighting old school in a book rather than on my Kindle, I would have gone through several highlighters. 

Like many of you, I realized long ago that it is easy and comfortable for all of us to support our own personal views if we only seek them out from those who think the same way we do. For years, I have done my best to read and listen to opposing views, although I can’t say that my own motivated reasoning doesn’t get in the way from time to time. It certainly did for Mr. Klein, who speaks at length about polarization and motivated reasoning yet by the middle of the book used Republicans and conservatives as cannon fodder. Almost every example featured a negative look at Republicans without a matching balance aimed at the Democrats. 

Thus, he presents the strongest argument for his premise through personal example. In turn, those who disagree with him may take exception to his comments, thus strengthening the polarization he speaks about. It’s too bad he didn’t take a step back and remove his personal filters, rather than spend the second half of the book echoing the political comments found in pro-Democrat news outlets. While Mr. Klein’s description of why America is so split at this time is spot on, his unnecessary backhand comments and distorted “facts” in the second half of the book do not match his definition of mindfulness in the last chapter, and caused me to rethink the five-star rating I was prepared to give after reading the first half of the book. 

I still recommend this book for everyone, no matter where you see yourself on the political spectrum. Knowing why we are so polarized may provide new thoughts for all of us, perhaps offering a path toward working together rather than tearing each other down.  Three stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster for an advance complimentary electronic copy of this book.
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