Democracies’ Polarization Problem Is Neither Inevitable Nor Incurable

Democracies’ Polarization Problem Is Neither Inevitable Nor Incurable
Abortion rights protesters have a heated discussion with a man who is anti-abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, May 14, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

In the past few weeks, two ever-divisive issues in U.S. politics have once again reared their heads: abortion and gun control.

Debates about the former were sparked in early May by a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating that a majority of the court’s justices are in favor of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government interference. Activists in favor of protecting the right to abortion, as well as those opposed, promptly took to the streets and digital platforms to advocate for their point of view—and condemn the other side’s.

Meanwhile, disputes over U.S. gun-ownership laws flared up once again last week in the immediate aftermath of the horrific shooting at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 young children and two adults were killed by a lone, 18-year-old gunman. Reactions in the days since then have been bitterly divided. On one hand, U.S. President Joe Biden urged citizens to “stand up to the [gun] lobbies,” while on the other, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, warned members of his organization ahead of their annual gathering on Friday that “the enemies of freedom are real.”

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