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’Political Tribes:’ Amy Chua Talks New Book, America’s Polarization Epidemic

In what has been called the most polarized era since the Civil War, author Amy Chua blames America’s culture of division on what she calls political tribalism. It’s the idea behind her latest book, “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.”

“We have tribalism taking over the U.S. political system,” Chua told Jim Braude Thursday during an interview on Greater Boston. "That’s why we really can’t have a lot of these conversations we need to be having about incredibly important issues."

Chua, who is also the author of the bestselling 2011 book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” says she has seen this play out in the debate over gun control after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“These are tragic problems, and you see both tribes, they retreat into their groups and start attacking the other side. You just can’t have a conversation,” said Chua.

The urge to revert to our political comfort zones is a matter of biology, according to Chua.

“Studies also show that we get pleasure, psychological pleasure, from demonizing and then sticking it to enemies. You actually get a lift,” she said. “People are just going to get a lot more clicks if you put some incendiary thing [online] and get everybody mad. More people will watch, and it’s really a vicious cycle.”

Chua explains that political tribalism also played a major role in the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

“I was actually one of the people who wasn’t surprised by the election,” said Chua. “Trump has done an amazing job persuading huge swaths of, call it rural, working class, lower income, white America … that he is a member of their tribe. It’s really 'us versus them,' and the people who voted for the other candidate are actually immoral enemies.”

Chua says she hopes that as a country, we learn from the mistakes we made in the last election.

“The 2016 election was a wake-up call, and I really do think so. I think both sides were playing with fire,” she said. “Tribalism is biological in human beings. We can’t get away from it. We sort of have to deal with it.”

To watch the full interview with Amy Chua, click on the video player above.

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