This brings together a lot of topics: public opinion, polling, media, polarization, and the duty of citizens and opinion leaders to be responsible consumers and producers of political information (news literacy).
This Economist article offers an interesting analysis, further confirming the extent to which social group identities are the proper unit of analysis in understanding American politics today.
This could provoke a lot of discussion, but I want to respond to the opening sentence in that article. I’m doing this because I believe the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment and their best students (America’s “Founding Fathers,” especially Madison and Hamilton) were very well aware that “all politics is identity politics” and offered many forgotten but helpful insights into how to think about how democracies can seek to reconcile political freedom and the propensity for factional division within a liberal order. I’ve thought this for a long time, but am more confident in that judgment after hearing Stephen Pinker defend a similar thesis when discussing his new book Enlightenment Now on the Ezra Klein show.
The Economist article states “America’s Founding Fathers envisioned a republic in which free-thinking voters would carefully consider the proposals of office-seekers.”
If by “envisioned” the Economist means “expected,” then this is simply wrong. While they believed there was no safer repository for the rights and interests of the people than electoral accountability (and other mechanisms of popular control over government, such as jury trials), they knew the people were unlikely to be informed and thoughtful in their voting behavior. Continue reading