Republican Like Me | Ken Stern

Summary of: Republican Like Me: A Lifelong Democrat’s Journey Across the Aisle
By: Ken Stern


In ‘Republican Like Me: A Lifelong Democrat’s Journey Across the Aisle’, Ken Stern dives into the increasing political polarization in the United States, exploring how people’s ingrained biases, selective beliefs, and fear of the opposing party contribute to this divide. The book examines various topics such as the media landscape, gun control, evangelicalism, discrimination, and climate change, shedding light on misconceptions that fuel the divide between Democrats and Republicans. The summary provides readers with an insight into the contemporary political climate and potential solutions for bridging the gap between different political ideologies.

The Echo Chambers of Political Polarization

Political polarization in America has surged in recent times, with a 20% increase seen in 2012 from 2004. A 2015 study showed that people favored awarding college scholarships to their own party despite lower performance than those from the opposition. Voters no longer merely disagree with the opposite party, they actively demonize them and often isolate themselves in like-minded enclaves. Confirmation bias is a driving force behind this behavior, leading people to only embrace ideas that confirm their beliefs. Even when presented with evidence that contests their beliefs, people cling to their own opinions. The same applies to shared political events, where people’s biases shape their perceptions of them. Despite the differences in their beliefs, people are not as different as they believe themselves to be.

The Danger of Confirmation Bias in Politics

In the 2016 presidential election, a bubble formed as people surrounded themselves only with those who shared their views, fueling anger and polarization in society. This behavior, known as confirmation bias, is the strongest bias in American politics, leading people to believe only what aligns with their preconceived notions. As a result, politics has become more about defeating the other side than finding common solutions. Even worse, voters on both sides fear the members of the opposing party. This gap between views is widening, despite evidence that most Americans fall in the middle of the political spectrum. It’s critical to recognize the danger of confirmation bias, where political views are shaped by others and not through independent evaluation of the issues. We must challenge ourselves to broaden our social and political circles to foster cooperation and meaningful progress.

Communication Evolution

Communication has changed significantly in recent years, with the removal of the Fairness Doctrine and cross-ownership rules leading to media giants and a shift in decency standards. The rise of social media has also changed the way people communicate, with online discussions often lacking respect and becoming polarized. Grievances, outrage, and hostility prevail in this new media landscape, with the uniformity of thought exacerbating polarization.

Gun Violence in America

Gun violence in America is a highly debated issue, yet the focus remains largely on mass shootings and assault weapons, despite the fact that such incidents account for a small percentage of gun-related deaths. The majority of gun-related deaths in the US are suicides, followed by urban violence. Debates about gun control tend to be partisan, with little consideration of data or other risks. While both gun owners and gun control advocates agree on the need for comprehensive background checks and keeping guns away from criminals and the mentally ill, they also selectively mine data to support their own arguments. Rather than focusing solely on limiting private gun ownership, curbing gun violence requires addressing issues such as drug abuse, mental illness, and poverty. The number of gun permits has risen significantly, but the homicide rate has decreased by more than 50% since 1980. Those with gun permits are also less likely to commit crimes than average members of the public. Congress must rely on expert opinions to address the issue of gun violence effectively.

Understanding Evangelicals

Approximately a quarter of Americans identify themselves as evangelicals, but they are not a homogenous group. Despite differences in beliefs about sexuality and multiculturalism among evangelicals, the majority tend to vote Republican. This makes it vital to comprehend them if we want to understand Republicans. While it’s easy to assume that evangelicals and liberal Democrats are at odds because of divisive issues like abortion and gay marriage, it’s worth noting that evangelicals do care about concerns that matter to Democrats, such as helping the disadvantaged, the infirm, and the poor. It’s essential to recognize the areas where both sides share common ground, such as the example of municipal cooperation in Portland. An evangelical leader teamed up with an openly gay mayor to produce City Serve, a community-driven endeavor that has helped thousands of people. To grasp how evangelicals work and think, we must consider the impact of online communications and the roles of new political agents that thrive in this digital landscape.

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