Tom Edsall NYT column:
Why did the national emergency brought about by the Covid pandemic not only fail to unite the country but instead provoke the exact opposite development, further polarization?
I posed this question to Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton. McCarty emailed me back:
With the benefit of hindsight, Covid seems to be the almost ideal polarizing crisis. It was conducive to creating strong identities and mapping onto existing ones. That these identities corresponded to compliance with public health measures literally increased “riskiness” of intergroup interaction. The financial crisis was also polarizing for similar reasons — it was too easy for different groups to blame each other for the problems.
McCarty went on:
Any depolarizing event would need to be one where the causes are transparently external in a way that makes it hard for social groups to blame each other. It is increasingly hard to see what sort of event has that feature these days.
Polarization has become a force that feeds on itself, gaining strength from the hostility it generates, finding sustenance on both the left and the right. A series of recent analyses reveals the destructive power of polarization across the American political system.