Yes, we're polarized, but how do we get un-polarized?
First of all, thank you for reading.
I know you have a lot of choices to chew up your time, so I appreciate you spending some of it with me.
I'm being extra nice because I've been reading the much-talked-about book "Why We're Polarized," by journalist Ezra Klein, the founder of Vox, host of a popular podcast and passionately devoted analyst of political science studies.
The importance of the political polarization topic has been increasingly obvious as we've headed into election years like this one. You could hear it from Democrats on Friday, frustrated after Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee declined to cast one of the four votes Democrats needed from Republicans to call for witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Perhaps inevitably, one of the culprits singled out by Klein as a factor in our deeply divided state is the news media. As I often have observed, no one criticizes media more than those of us who work in the profession, and Klein has noticed the obvious: In the rush for eyeballs, profit-driven media are behaving as competitively as television news always has.
And as Klein reminds us, we've had an explosion of news media choices, more than any normal human could keep up with.
Think back. Between 1995 and 2005, our choices expanded greatly. In 1995, we had our hometown papers, a few radio stations, the three nightly network newscasts, the 15-year-old CNN and a few news magazines.
A decade later, we had access via our favorite web browser to almost any newspaper or magazine in the world, Fox News and MSNBC in the cable news race as well as satellite radio, podcasts, blogs and -- well, you get the idea.
But working along with the media influence are other polarizing factors, particularly one that a lot of people are not always comfortable talking about. "A core argument of this book," he writes, "is that everyone engaged in American politics is engaged in identity politics."
Not that there is anything wrong with that, Klein hastens to add. "This is not an insult, and it's not controversial. ... Identity is present in politics in the way gravity, evolution or cognition is present in politics ... because it is omnipresent in us."