Tom Nichols in Market Watch:
Why can’t Americans agree about anything? The United States has survived through periods of great division and yet today we all now seem incapable of finding common ground on even the smallest issues. This is a problem that is approaching the level of a national crisis that threatens our democracy.
Some of this tendentiousness is part of an irascible American culture that is, paradoxically, woven into our greatness as a nation. Our willingness to speak our minds and rely on our own common sense has been central to an American character noted by Tocqueville and others since our founding as a nation.
Still, American politics were once characterized by a fair amount of bipartisanship and even ticket-splitting in national elections. Today, in public forums, we engage each other not to learn or to converse, but to fight along the harshest and most intractable partisan lines — and to win, no matter how obnoxious we must be in order to carry the day.
Of course, some of this problem is generated by human nature, especially the problem of “confirmation bias.” We want to believe that our experiences and our beliefs, including the important issue of how we view ourselves, explain the world around us. We naturally want to reject evidence that conflicts with those cherished views (especially the ones about ourselves). We all do it, and it’s why we so easily drive each other crazy in our daily conversations.
More here. [Thanks to Ali Minai.]