In this section I lay out my current point of view on causes, potential solutions and what success at addressing this challenge looks like. Point of View: > Background | Defining the ProblemCauses | Solutions | What is Success?
On causes,  I have some initial suppositions, but this is neither a comprehensive list, nor yet validated by sufficient due diligence. That said, here are some talking points on potential causes, in no specific order:
  • Increasing economic challenges to continued broad-based growth in the US economy, and specifically declining opportunities for the middle class.  Research does show that polarization correlates positively with economic anxiety.
  • Increased polarization of news media enabled by:
    • The emergence of cable and online news make world-view targeted news sources economically viable (eg, Fox News for conservatives, MSNBC for progressives, Breitbart for further conservatives, etc.)
    • Balance and fairness laws that apply to broadcast news do not apply to cable & online news.
  • Social media filter bubbles.
    • Currently I don’t actually think this is as big a contributor as people believe. I actually suspect that social media may end up being more of a positive than negative contributor on this issue.
  • Diversified entertaiment media undermining a common cultural dialogue. Some observe that the more diverse, demo/psychographically targeted entertainment choices available today have undermined our society’s shared cultural experience.  A nation that all used to watch “Friends” together is now one in which half watch “The Daily Show” and the other watches “Duck Dynasty.”
  • Politicians’ increased willingness to indulge in polarizing rhetoric and activities.
    • In my view this accelerated beginning in the early/mid 1990s and continues to worsen.

Polarization versus opinion intolerance.

Some studies imply that political polarization is indeed not worse than it was during 1980’s.  As an alternate explanation, some observers point to more consistent “sorting” of like-minded people into one of the two major parties, rather than growth in endorsement of more extreme viewpoints.  However, the issue I am targeting is not polarization specifically, but the intolerance of alternative viewpoints that itself results in polarization.  I actually don’t have a problem with polarization, as long as the two sides are listening to and learning from each other and able to collaborate for mutual gain.  Polarization can make this more difficult, but doesn’t necessarily have to.

Next > Then how is the problem solved?

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Thoughts from across the aisle...

”O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!”

— Langston Hughes — “Let America Be America Again”

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