UMass Symposium Panelists Discuss “The Structures of Polarization”

The Panel Discussion coined “The Structures of Polarization”, featured Associate Professor Amel Ahmed, Professor Anthony Paik, Professor Ray La Raja, and Associate Professor Cedric de Leon. Political Science Professor Ahmed presented “Playing It Safe: Redistricting and the Political Geography of Ideological Polarization”, which covered as to how political geography acts as a force of polarization in the United States; Ahmed focused on the distinct differences between disagreement and polarization, and how in certain instances throughout history, polarization has been something that the nation needed in order to change.

Sociology Professor Paik presented “"Personal Networks in a Politically Polarized Age”. Paik’s research focused on the post Trump election “trouble” that occurred in personal networks --- specifically the “defriending” that went on in networks between Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

Political Science Professor La Raja presented "How Money in Politics Polarizes". He explained as to how specific interest groups and billionaires in the United States are pushing their political parties in dangerous directions, and how these groups are not being held accountable. Through his presentation, La Raja emphasized that the parties are losing control of their money, messages, and nominations because of the powerful influence of interest groups and billionaires.

Lastly, Professor De Leon, also Director of the Labor Center, presented “"Post Racial Neoliberalism: Origins of Polarization in the Trump Era”. De Leon called on progressives to advance the method of solidarity, coined “economic democracy”. De Leon emphasized that this was the answer to polarization, and that the labor movement could lead this mass movement towards solidarity.