Arthur Brooks explains the biggest problem in American politics at Sutherland Institute’s 2018 annual gala

November 12, 2018

In this season of thanksgiving and gift-giving, Sutherland Institute wants to share a gift – a series, actually. Between now and the end of 2018, we’ll share important messages from our memorable gala keynote on the blog. This post is part 1 of 4.

Attendees of the 2018 Sutherland Annual Gala are still talking about the keynote address by Arthur Brooks. He shared profound insights about the current polarization of American politics and offered the solution.

Watch a short video clip below to hear Arthur identify the biggest problem in American politics today.

Or read the transcript:

“I want to identify what I think is the biggest problem in American politics today: Polarization.

“Look, I have strong political views. I’m a conservative to the bone. But I hate what our political process is coming to. And you know, many people will say, ‘Well, the problem is anger, right? There’s so much anger in America.’ And there’s a lot of anger in American politics, isn’t there? You hear it all around us, too much anger. But that’s not the real problem. The problem in American politics is something much deeper: It’s contempt. Contempt, which is defined by psychologists as the conviction of the utter worthlessness of another human being. I have a friend who teaches at University of Washington in Seattle.

“He’s the world’s leading expert in marital reconciliation. What’s his name – John Gottman. Some of you have heard of him. He runs the Gottman marriage lab. This guy’s a hero. He’s brought thousands of couples back together who were on their way to divorce court. And that’s a hero for me, because anything that keeps people in love and keeps families together, it’s a good person. I asked him, ‘What is the biggest predictor of divorce?’ He went one better on me. He said that he can look at a couple that’s quarrelling on a video and turn the sound down to zero, and within five seconds can predict that that couple will be divorced within five years. With 97 percent accuracy. You want to know he’s looking for, don’t you. Because, you know, so you don’t do that. Eye-rolling. That’s what he’s looking for – eye-rolling. Right now – the problem is when somebody owes you respect, somebody who’s supposed to give you love, gives you contempt instead. Contempt is expressed also in sarcasm and mockery and derisive comments with disdain. It’s not a mark of anything except dismissiveness and even hatred. That’s what we see. That’s how we treat each other. That’s the love killer in marriage. And that’s the polarization engine in American politics today. It is, my friends, the enemy of unity. And that’s what we have to figure out a way to defeat.”

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