Demagogues are creations of the collective as much as they lead groups into warfare and hatred. They exist as a funnel for existential fears and frustrated longings. By reducing complexity down to simple answers, they make themselves into emotional magnets for dis-ease. How do we resist such temptations?
Perhaps the pope's statement that when it comes to the difficult issues of the day, "We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions," simply could not be heard in the political polarization that dominates Congress today.
Lost in the short-term attention commanded by Donald Trump in the first Republican primary debate was a long-term problem for the party, created by questions that compelled the candidates to take positions at odds with a majority of Americans. While the debate questions were smart and sharp, they were also predicated on many conservative litmus tests. When the subjects of abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration and religion were aired, they elicited responses that, while pleasing to a core constituency, will be a tough sell in the general election. Adherents can get their news in a manner that validates their beliefs, notwithstanding that the objective of those outlets is to draw clicks from adherents based on controversy that would not exist in a world of compromise.
In most states, the legislators themselves can creatively draw districts that yield their desired outcome -- this is akin to the politicians choosing their constituents. What type of district would be best for a representative democracy? Districts drawn by the politicians themselves, or districts drawn independently according to an objective set of criteria?
What would happen if all of us critically examined our basic story of America and see if those stories cause us to make assumptions about people in our lives? What would happen if people could meet each other and see unique individuals with unique stories rather than characters in a pre-existing, pre-scripted story?
Voters in many communities continue to be subjected to wave after wave of negative political ads. The obvious solution is to take big money out of politics, but another tactic would be to promote bipartisanship, to somehow dispel the rancor between Democrats and Republicans. Is bipartisanship possible? Or is the U.S. too polarized?