This article is an interview conducted by Stefanie Sanford.
Why do you think we perceive public life as rougher and uglier than it actually is?
First of all, I don’t want to downplay the rancor and fighting in American politics. We are a highly diverse, constitutional, democratic republic, and we have to work out all of our issues through the democratic process. That has never been neat and tidy, and it never will be. There are always going to be times when principles collide with one another or when people have different priorities.
What’s distorting things right now, because local and state newspapers are largely gone, is that everyone has their eyes on distant fights. You have radio hosts and podcasters and cable news hosts who need something to talk about every day, and they pick the nastiest examples they can find across the whole country. If you have 5,000 good things happening and one radioactive thing, the radioactive thing gets covered and amplified.
There are thousands and thousands of school board meetings across the country every month. To pick the five or 10 where something contentious happens is just a form of gaslighting. It badly distorts the way we think about our country.
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