Depolarizing From Within

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The Challenge: Political Polarization

Politics is tough. It always has been. American politics is competitive, thrilling, frustrating – and infuriating. The stakes are high. Issues are important. Outcomes matter. This is why we care, and should care, about our politics.

But do our politics have to be demonizing? Does it have to bring out the worst in us? Do our politics have to destroy the goodwill of our society?  Is the dehumanizing of our fellow Americans something we should accept?

Affective political polarization (not only disagreement on issues but personal contempt and distrust) has been growing between us for at least 25 years. In other words the vitriol in American politics was a problem long before Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the 2020 election.

Yet today, there is evidence to suggest that we are now as polarized as we have been since the Civil War. Americans no longer see their political opponents as simply wrong or misguided. They see them as enemies who must be defeated at all costs.

Source: Braver Angels – Our Story


The following titles are a mixture of liberal and conservative views, with the aim of providing a balance of contextual information to address the challenges of political polarization. If you’d like to participate in a virtual conversation about this topic, check out the Braver Angels workshop series which begins on Monday, June 21, 2021 from 6:30-9:15 PM.

Additional titles not available in our catalog:

–Jerry Muller, Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present
–Paul Starr, Freedom’s Power: The True Force of Liberalism

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The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century

The Lost History of Liberalism challenges our most basic assumptions about a political creed that has become a rallying cry–and a term of derision–in today’s increasingly divided public square. Taking readers from ancient Rome to today, Helena Rosenblatt traces the evolution of the words “liberal” and “liberalism,” revealing the heated debates that have taken place over their meaning.

Making Sense: Conversations on Consciousness, Morality, and the Future of Humanity

Sam Harris–neuroscientist, philosopher, and bestselling author–has been exploring some of the most important questions about the human mind, society, and current events on his podcast, Making Sense. For Harris, honest conversation, no matter how difficult or controversial, represents the only path to moral and intellectual progress. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on OverDrive

Union: A Democrat, a Republican, and a Search for Common Ground

Two friends–a Democrat and a Republican–travel across America “on a deeply personal journey through the heart of a divided nation . . . to find growth, hope and fundamental strength in their own lives” (Bob Woodward) and the country they love, in good times and bad.