America’s political system isn’t broken. The truth is scarier: it’s working exactly as designed. In this book, journalist Ezra Klein reveals how that system is polarizing us—and how we are polarizing it—with disastrous results.
“The American political system—which includes everyone from voters to journalists to the president—is full of rational actors making rational decisions given the incentives they face,” writes political analyst Ezra Klein. “We are a collection of functional parts whose efforts combine into a dysfunctional whole.”
In Why We’re Polarized, Klein reveals the structural and psychological forces behind America’s descent into division and dysfunction. Neither a polemic nor a lament, this book offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump’s rise to the Democratic Party’s leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture.
America is polarized, first and foremost, by identity. Everyone engaged in American politics is engaged, at some level, in identity politics. Over the past fifty years in America, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. These merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking much in our politics and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together.
Klein shows how and why American politics polarized around identity in the twentieth century, and what that polarization did to the way we see the world and one another. And he traces the feedback loops between polarized political identities and polarized political institutions that are driving our system toward crisis.
This is a revelatory book that will change how you look at politics, and perhaps at yourself.
Ezra Klein is the editor-at-large and cofounder of Vox, the award-winning explanatory news organization. Launched in 2014, Vox reaches more than 50 million people across its platforms each month. Klein is also the host of the podcast the Ezra Klein Show, cohost of the Weeds podcast, and an executive producer on Vox’s Netflix show, Explained. Previously, Klein was a columnist and editor at TheWashington Post, a policy analyst at MSNBC, and a contributor to Bloomberg.
"Brilliant and wide-ranging. A book about what just might be our central, perhaps fatal problem. This is the kind of book you find yourself arguing with out loud as you read it and will stick in your head long after you've finished. Absolutely crucial for understanding this perilous moment." —Chris Hayes, host of “All In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC and author of A Colony in a Nation
"In this thoughtful exploration of American politics, Ezra Klein challenges the conventional wisdom about why and and how recently we've come apart, and suggests that the fantasy of some unified American middle is perhaps at odds with the ongoing fight for truly representational politics. Why We're Polarized makes the compelling case that the centuries-long battle to perfect our union means we were built to be split; Klein's provocative question is whether America's democratic systems and institutions can bear up under the weight of our divides." —Rebecca Traister, New York Times bestselling author of Good and Mad
“Something has gone terribly wrong with American politics in the last decade or so, and Klein gives us the clearest and most comprehensive analysis I have seen. He shows how we entered the realm of political ‘mega identity politics,’ and how feedback loops between our tribal psychology and our rapidly evolving media ecosystem may be driving our democracy over a cliff. The book reviews so many studies that in lesser hands it would earn the label ‘wonkish,’ but Klein’s writing is so good that it is a joy to read, even as you experience a range of negative emotions from what you are reading.” —Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University—Stern School of Business, author of The Righteous Mind, Co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind
“A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant . . . Deeply insightful . . . A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A timely, thought-provoking debut . . . This precise and persuasive guide helps to make sense of the current state of American politics. . . . Political junkies as well as general readers will learn from his analysis of the U.S. media landscape.” —Publishers Weekly
“Klein’s accessible work is for anyone wondering how we got here; it shows how understanding history can help us plan for the future. . . . By combining political history with social commentary, this book will retain relevancy.” —Library Journal