I don’t see how we can ever trust each other again.” —NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt
Polarization has defined American politics for several years now. More and more, it seems, Americans are divided over nearly every issue of import — race, immigration, terrorism, trade, social policy.
The divisions run deep and cut across a number of cultural fault lines.
Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University and the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.
Haidt’s research focuses on the links between moral intuitions and political beliefs. His work is especially useful now because it explains how emotions and core value judgments drive political behavior. After a presidential campaign dominated by rhetorical appeals to cultural wedge issues, Haidt’s insights are worth considering.
I spoke with Haidt about tribalism, the future of multiculturalism in America, and whether he sees a path forward after a punishing and polarizing presidential election.
A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
I’ve spoken to several friends who voted for Trump, and many of them can’t tell me why they did so. As a social psychologist, how do you think about Trump’s appeal?
Well, it’s obvious that there’s not a clear philosophy. Nor is it clear what Trumpism actually is. What is clear is that there are a number of problems in our democracy that are leading to increasing levels of anger, and Trump identified those, tapped into them, and spoke directly to the fears and anger people are feeling.
Many people talked about the economic trends and the dislocation we’re seeing. I think the economic trends are much less than half the story, and to the extent that they matter, they matter through social processes.
I’ve been fascinated by how American politics used to Read More Here