Political polarization isn’t new – and it’s not necessarily destructive. As the U.S. approaches the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., political philosopher Robert Talisse reminds Americans that “deep-seated disagreement can be healthy for democracy” because the “clash of opinions can help us find the truth.”

But the kind of “runaway” polarization the U.S. is experiencing today separates people into tribes and can be extremely dangerous to democratic societies, writes Talisse. It transforms people into extremists who “focus on hostility toward those who disagree” – even when they’re allies, the Vanderbilt scholar explains.

What to do? “Polarization is a problem that cannot be solved, but only managed,” adds Talisse, in a slightly hopeful conclusion to his unsettling story. We’ve got more articles coming this week related to the Jan. 6 anniversary, and I promise, this one’s the most optimistic.

Also today:

Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Society

Not all polarization is bad, but the US could be in trouble

Robert B. Talisse, Vanderbilt University

Deep-seated disagreement is healthy for a democracy. But when people lose the ability to navigate those differences, they risk seeking anti-democratic unity of thought.

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