Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Partisanship is the strongest predictor of coronavirus response

By David Roberts


The US is a land divided. Americans have sorted themselves into opposing factions, with different values, sources of authority, and shared understandings. In some ways, there is no longer any meaningful US “public,” but rather two publics that want and believe different things.

The current state of deep polarization in the US is the subject of a great deal of discussion and research right now, including in an excellent new book by my colleague Ezra Klein. One aspect of it that I have highlighted in a number of posts (start here) is what I call America’s epistemic crisis. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy having to do with knowledge and how we come to know things; the crisis is that, as a polity, we have become incapable of learning or knowing the same things, and thus, incapable of acting together in a coherent fashion.

I have been wondering when that epistemic crisis might spiral out into a full-fledged political crisis. I wondered if it might happen around the Mueller investigation, or when Trump sent 5,000 troops to the southern border to stop a phantom migrant invasion, or when Trump was impeached.


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