Americans are highly politically polarized right now, and conversation may seem impossible. Can anything be done? Cato adjunct scholar Arnold Kling suggests that the solution may begin by taking a closer look at the languages that three significant ideological blocs tend to use when they describe current events. Kling argues that progressives tend to frame events as being fundamentally about oppressors and the oppressed; conservatives tend to frame events as being about civilization and barbarism; and libertarians tend to frame events as being about state coercion and individual liberty.
Each of these frames can be persuasive, Kling argues, and each of them may also be correct. Yet when they are applied in cross-ideological political discourse, they are often used to portray political Others as indifferent at best to major social evils. In this way, the common frames we use to talk about politics can make it much more difficult for us to understand one another, an idea he developed at length in his 2013 book The Three Languages of Politics, which has recently appeared in a third edition.
Joining him in conversation this month will be Professor Nikki Usher of the University of Illinois, Professor Donald Downs of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Jonathan Rauch. Comments are open through the end of the month, and readers are invited to join the discussion.