To Depolarize or Not to Depolarize with Julie Kohler

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Julie Kohler, author of the Washington Post article “How Calls to ‘Love Your Enemies’ Enforce the Status-Quo,” joins Ciaran and John for a back and forth about her own past critiques of Better Angels, the proper place of empathy in political life, and the importance of depolarization to preserving the possibility for political progress in the long run.

Julie is a senior advisor for the Democracy Alliance, a progressive donor network. She has a Ph.D. in family social science and writes frequently on women and politics. You can find her on Twitter @juliekkohler1.

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7 thoughts on “To Depolarize or Not to Depolarize with Julie Kohler”

  1. Michele Jansen

    Just from her written piece I think Julie demonstrates exactly why we need groups like Better Angels – its so easy to see the fault in the other side why missing the exact same behavior in our own.
    From her piece : “shallow understanding from people of good will” – see that on BOTH sides; “a right-wing media ecosystem that sows disinformation” – left-wing media guilty of same; “is it a coincidence that calls to lower the temperature of politics have arisen just as women’s anger has begun to fuel progressive political victories” – yes it is – this is false logic argument – just as many women support Better Angels goal; “But the notion that a larger dose of respectful conversations is all we need to close the deep cleavages” – whoever said this is ALL we need?
    Thats my comment on the written piece – now I will listen and add a comment after I hear her reaction/participation in the discussion.

  2. Justin Naylor

    Wow! I have to admit that was a hard conversation to listen to. John and Ciaran did a fabulous job representing Better Angels and offered clear and (to me) persuasive arguments for why depolarization IS a structural issue, and the most important one. But somehow Ms. Kohler just didn’t hear the message. This has really given me great pause. I’m not sure how the message could have been delivered more effectively, and yet I don’t think it persuaded Ms. Kohler. For example, in emphasizing that structural changes like preventing voter suppression laws are more important than depolarization, Ms. Kohler missed the fact that undoing and preventing such laws is not really possible in a polarized atmosphere. The one MUST come before the other.

  3. Emily Helgeson

    I agree this was a tough interview to listen to but for different reasons. I come from a conservative perspective and it seems to me that the confusion and de-legitimization of conservative values has continued from the Better Angels group and from Julie Kohler. She has lived within the progressive ideological bubble for too long and is incapable of understanding a perspective that is different from her own without labeling it as “hateful” or “anti-democracy”. The moderators did not challenge her incessant attack on conservatives and even agreed with her most of the time. It is very unfortunate that Better Angels continues to facilitate and promote the hatred towards conservatives and fuels the delusion that progressives are morally superior and under attack. A healthy community is apparently one where only progressives exist.

  4. Susan Jordan

    I listened to this entire thing and found it incredibly frustrating. You say you were modeling good listening, constructive dialogue but what I mostly heard were nice words and respectful tone but very little actual listening/recognition of the other view. I heard versions of “Yes, but…” several times in this podcast. Whenever I hear that, I hear that the people are waiting for the other person to stop talking so that they can make their own points. And then the conversations ends with everyone patting each other on the back about how well they did. There were some real differences to be explored here, some challenging ideas raised but they were never engaged. In order for Better Angels to make a dent in this problem, I think it has to go beyond that.

  5. I think this podcast, and the previous comments, underscore how difficult it is going to be to “depolarize” the United States (or anyplace else for that matter). It came up several times in the podcast and in the comments that one of the problems is perspective and another is disagreement with regard to the relevant facts. Whether you “come from a conservative perspective” or “live in a liberal bubble”, it seems to me that even when we try reasonably hard, we have a hard time considering other perspectives, much less other views of the “facts”. I’m not sure how we get away from this. I appreciate the efforts of Better Angels to attempt this, but my confidence level is not high. I love the idea of all of us being able to discuss all issues in a logical and passion free manner. I’m just not sure it’s possible. It seems to me that in the past we have either had a big enough crisis (e.g. WW II or the depression) or have occasionally (although maybe not as often as we would like to believe) been able to pick low hanging fruit upon which we could somehow develop enough of a compromise to get something useful done. I’m not sure how much “low hanging fruit” exists in the current environment. Also, compromise seems to have a bad name on both sides of the aisle. Where does that leave us?

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