Political Discourse 2.0

As commentators have reminded us throughout the last decade, the information age has catalyzed unprecedented cultural and political polarization. With the increased use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging platforms over the last couple of years, this trend has intensified in a startling way. Young people have more ways than ever to express their feelings, affinities, and discontents. With social media, they are also able to connect with like-minded individuals across the nation in real time.

From listservs to message boards, self-selecting virtual communities can mobilize movements, but also create political echo chambers where cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives is abandoned for one-sided debate. While these spaces can provide opportunities for affirmation, they also intensify partisanship and can obstruct the democratic process. With an array of digitally constructed communities to choose from, Americans are more likely to engage with members of similar ideology on most political issues.

This doesn't come as a huge surprise — it also reflects our national politics, as the recent decades have seen the disappearance of prominent moderate figures in national politics. From the mid 1970s to the mid 2000s, the number of House members who self-described as moderate plummeted from 30% to 8%, as the great compromisers of the House have been succeeded by rigid ideologues and their filibuster-happy counterparts in the Senate. With heightened tensions in the Red vs. Blue dynamic, it’s no surprise that the millennial generation has used the technology at their disposal to reflect their partisan personal politics.

In an era where we form our identities based on preferences, objects, and affiliations, what one reads about says a lot about who they are. Long gone are the days when ostensibly objective outlets have the last say in delivering the news to the American body politic. If you frequent Fox News or the Drudge Report, chances are you weren't too disappointed by the midterm elections. On the other hand, if you're an avid reader of the Huffington Post or follow Rachel Maddow on Twitter, you probably didn't make the trip to Glenn Beck’s Rally to 'Restore Honor.'

With more reliance on slanted news, young people are tuning out traditional outlets in favor of sources that reflect their personal brand. A Pew study found that more 18-24 year old Americans watch The Daily Show regularly as an information source than all major network evening news shows combined. While entertainment-oriented approaches to engaging the citizenry may attract a wider audience, they can also damage the quality and accuracy of news coverage.

Although many bemoan the troubles of a highly polarized political environment, few take steps toward bridging the gap in their own lives. By detangling our personal identities with how we stay informed and engage in politics, our generation has a unique opportunity to leverage the aforementioned resources into an asset for democracy. However, without more of a discussion on how to overcome the challenges of isolated political discourse, we could see a different outcome entirely.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Hayling Price

Hayling Price serves as Policy Director for the National Human Services Assembly, an association of the nation’s leading nonprofits in the fields of youth development, community development, and social services. He graduated from University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in urban studies with a concentration in government and public policy. His research has examined the politics of community development and civic engagement in federal urban policy. He also serves on the board of Ase Academy, an African-centered cultural and academic enrichment program for secondary students.

MORE FROM

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.

‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later’ proves sometimes it’s OK to skip the reunion

If you're looking to trim down your Netflix consumption, start by avoiding this pointless sequel series.

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.

‘Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later’ proves sometimes it’s OK to skip the reunion

If you're looking to trim down your Netflix consumption, start by avoiding this pointless sequel series.