Lilliana Mason is a writer, author of the book, "Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity," and an associate professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
If solidarity and the recognition of mutual self-interest are the keys to moving past our fractious moment, it can be hard to see how we'll get there. Anger and tribalism appear to be at an all-time high, creating political and societal rifts that seem unbridgeable. Indeed, it is hard to believe that only 70 years ago, the country was deemed by political scientists to be not polarized enough. In 1950, the American Political Science Association put out a report that suggested that the parties were not distinct enough and that it was making people's political decision making too difficult.
Over the next few decades, they became distinct alright. Lilliana Mason is a political psychologist at the University of Maryland. When we spoke to her last fall, she told us that most people think they know exactly what each party stands for — leaving us with two camps that both seek to destroy the other.
Happy Thanksgiving! Please enjoy a re-air episode from April 2018 with Lilliana Mason.Yes, identity politics is breaking our country. But it’s not identity politics as we’re used to thinking about it. In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, Lilliana Mason traces the construction of our partisan “mega-identities”: identities that fuse party affiliation to ideology, race, religion, gender, sexuality, geography, and more. These mega-identities didn’t exist 50 or even 30 years ago, but now that they’re here, they change the way we see each other, the way we engage in politics, and the way politics absorbs other — previously non-political —spheres of our culture. In making her case, Mason offers one of the best primers I’ve read on how little it takes to activate a sense of group identity in human beings, and how far-reaching the cognitive and social implications are once that group identity takes hold. I don’t want to spoil our discussion here, but suffice to say that her recounting of the “minimal group paradigm” experiments is not to be missed. This is the kind of research that will change not just how you think about the world, but how you think about yourself. Mason’s book is, I think, one of the most important published this year, and this conversation gave me a lens on our political discord that I haven’t stopped thinking about since. If you want to understand the kind of identity politics that’s driving America in 2018, you should listen in.Books recommendations:Ideology in America by Christopher Ellis and James Stimson Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi The Power by Naomi AldermanMy book is available for pre-order! You can find it at www.EzraKlein.com.Want to contact the show? Reach out at email@example.comYou can subscribe to Ezra's new podcast Impeachment, explained on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or your favorite podcast app. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Political scientist Lilliana Mason of the University Maryland and author of Uncivil Agreement talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Mason argues that political partisanship has become stronger in America in recent years because it aligns with other forms of community and identity. People are associating primarily with people who share their political views in their other social activities outside of politics. As a result, they encounter fewer people from the other side. The intensity of partisanship can even overcome ideology as partisans change their policy positions in their eagerness to be on the winning side. The conversation closes with a discussion of what might be done to improve political discourse in America.
In the latest episode of “Deconstructed,” IVN Principal Political Analyst TJ O’Hara talks with Dr. Lilliana Mason, author of the book "Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity" and assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. Dr. Mason deconstructs political polarization in America and the behavioral impact it is having on our nation.