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Are We Really That Polarized? Discuss at a Seattle Think & Drink July 12

Right in time for the presidential conventions, join us for “American Rage: Division and Anger in US Politics,” a Think and Drink in Seattle on July 12.

Violence at rallies, debates filled with personal attacks, and even Twitter taunts have become the norm in the current presidential campaign. But the campaign’s vitriol seems to be a reflection of the polarized mood of the country at large: A study by Pew Research showed that roughly a third of each party views the other as a “threat to the nation’s well-being,” and that the political center had drifted to the left and right at a greater rate in 2015 than in years before.

But how bad is it, really? Has increased polarization been a cyclical part of US history, or have we somehow broken the government?

On July 12, join us for “American Rage: Division and Anger in US Politics,” a Think and Drink event in Seattle at Naked City Brewery and Taphouse.The event features Washington State University professors Cornell Clayton, co-editor of Civility and Democracy in America, and Travis Ridout, co-author of The Persuasive Power of Campaign Advertising. The event will be moderated by KUOW’s Ross Reynolds.

“Politics become more passionate—and less civil—when there are real, important differences between the parties,” Clayton told Humanities Washington in an interview. And those growing differences are borne out in statistics: Pew found that the typical Republican is more conservative than 94% of Democrats, compared with 70% in 1994. Likewise, the typical Democrat is more liberal than 92% of Republicans, compared to 64% in 1994.

Is increasing media saturation partly to blame? Media as a means to promote a political agenda is not a new phenomenon. Before Twitter and Facebook became major political platforms, talk radio and cable news programs helped to drive a candidate’s campaign. Before that, political cartoons, partisan newspapers, and advertisements were the American Revolution’s MSNBC and Fox News. Politically driven media has always been present in the United States, but is our digital world a dangerous new frontier?

A glance through history shows a country constantly overwhelmed by contentious issues—disputes accompanied by periods of political division. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, and many more of the United States’ pivotal phases have been full of violence and estranged political parties.

In relation to these events, 2016 seems tame. But political polarization seems to be growing. When we look back on this election in the context of history, how will we remember it?

This Think and Drink event is presented in collaboration with ACT Theatre’s production of “Daisy”. Think and Drink attendees will receive a discount on tickets.

Media sponsor: KUOW

Think and Drink events are free to attend. No ticket or registration is required. Can’t make it? Then join us for our next “American Rage” Think and Drink in Tacoma on September 22.

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