Harvard Professor Offers Historical Perspective On America's Political Polarization

By Steve Goldstein
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2019 - 12:06pm

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A Trump supporter and protester debate political issues outside the hangar where Trump was speaking in Mesa.
Bridget Dowd/KJZZ
A Trump supporter and protester debate outside the Mesa hangar where Trump spoke in October, 2018.

Political polarization in the U.S. seems to be growing, and it’s only expected to become more intense as the 2020 election season gets closer. How long can a period marked by intense disagreement and fears of inequality and disconnection last? And what can bring it to a close, or at least reduce the heat?

Robert Putnam, public policy professor at Harvard, argued that looking to our history is vital — especially when it comes to turning our “I” focused society into one that’s more focused on the collective “we.”

Putnam was in Arizona recently to speak as part of ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, and The Show also spoke with him. He talked about what periods in U.S. history he’d look to in order to offer a more optimistic outlook.

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