Author: Nathaniel Persily
“Solutions to Political Polarization in America”, edited by Professor Nathaniel Persily, and “American Gridlock”, edited by professors James Thurber and Antoine Yoshinaka, are two recently published collections of essays focused on the causes of and solutions for polarization in our political system.
In both cases, the list of authors is extremely eminent and qualified. The fact that such a large number of professors and political scientists have identified polarization as an important and worthy research topic helps cement the need to expedite corrective action.
Obviously it does not take a nuclear scientist to know that our system is polarized and dysfunctional, but having close to 40 academic papers on the topic lends a perspective that strips away the anecdotal elements while testing through analytics the viability of proposed solutions. For example, one of the commonly perceived solutions is to open the primary process, yet one article demonstrates that the data does not support his conclusion. Others take on the relationship of campaign finance to legislative outcomes and show that the link may be more perception than reality.
It’s hard to say which collection of essays best captures the moment. Professor Persily’s work has sections devoted to “reforming the political system”, strengthening parties”, “empowering and informing moderate voters” and “lowering barriers to policy making”. Professors Thurber and Yoshinaka classify their articles as “polarization among voters and activists”, polarization in national institutions”, “polarization in the states” and “polarization in the media”.
Most importantly, each work focuses on solutions. Unfortunately, the take-away is that there are many viable solutions, yet few that seem capable of acceptance and implementation in the near future.