... superbly researched and written ... Klein has done his homework in reviewing the extensive academic literature on the subject and interviewing scores of actors immersed in practical politics ... provides a highly useful guide to this most central of political puzzles, digesting mountains of social science research and presenting it in an engaging form. There are two areas of weakness, however, in an overall outstanding volume...The first has to do with the central contention that our current polarization is fundamentally about race. Klein dismisses economic drivers of populism like globalization and the loss of working-class jobs, noting that if those were the fundamental issues, then left-wing populism rather than the nativist variety should have seen a big upsurge in support ... The book’s second weakness lies in suggested solutions, which Klein admits are not his strong point. Normatively and as a matter of practical politics, no reform is conceivable that disproportionately benefits one party over the other: His suggestions of congressional representation for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, or abolition of the electoral college, may be desirable in themselves but will never pass until the Democrats take over all three branches of government (in which case our polarization problem will have been largely solved) ... Klein dismisses complaints about political correctness and identity politics on the left, but a politics built on the grievances of ever narrower identity groups breeds similar thinking on the right, and it cannot be the basis for a broader democratic, civic identity that is the ultimate answer to polarization.
... delivers ... Klein describes neatly and concisely what has changed in our electoral politics ... Klein has few answers...even these measures, commendable though they may be, are a very heavy lift ... In the end, he offers simply the hope that as Americans become more aware of the cancer of our current identity politics, they will make efforts to reduce their own involvement. I hope he is right. I fear that, notwithstanding his thoughtful, clear and persuasive analysis, we have a long and torturous path ahead.
It does not fully succeed: The sources of our divide appear more complicated than Klein suggests, and the path beyond polarization will be more fraught than he lets on ... Of all the forces thought to drive political attitudes and action, Klein focuses almost exclusively on the behavioral dynamics theorized by evolutionary psychologists ... Yet the state of American politics appears altogether different from partisan arrangements across the world ... the psychological perspective also leaves one with a muddled view of the American sociopolitical scene ... Oddly for a book by the co-founder of Vox—maybe America’s top publisher of policy journalism—Why We’re Polarized leaves little room for material politics. Of all the identities Klein examines, economic class is mentioned the least ... The way forward lies in convincing Americans not to retreat from national politics but to think even more broadly and abstractly about where this country ought to go. Why We’re Polarized does some of the job, but leaves a daunting truth unsaid: To fight polarization, we’ll have to get much more polarized. The only way out is through.