Mainstream Parties in Crisis: Overcoming Polarization

Issue Date January 2021
Volume 32
Issue 1
Page Numbers 6-21
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Around the world, democracy is being undermined by elected leaders using polarizing political strategies that divide societies into mutually distrustful camps. The logic of polarization creates incentives for political leaders and voters alike to sacrifice democratic principles rather than risk their side losing power, and it changes the capacity of institutions designed to manage political conflict and sustain democracy. Drawing lessons from experiences around the world, we propose strategies for oppositions to depolarize or repolarize around democracy-building agendas. We further analyze the challenges of “the day after” polarizing incumbents are removed, and how strategic choices to emphasize long-term collective interests over short-term partisan interests can begin to shift the vicious cycle to a virtuous one.

About the Authors

Jennifer McCoy

Jennifer McCoy is Regent’s Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University, nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and visiting researcher at Koç University in Istanbul. She is coeditor, with Murat Somer, of “Polarizing Polities: A Global Threat to Democracy,” a special volume of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2019).

View all work by Jennifer McCoy

Murat Somer

Murat Somer is professor of political science at Koç University, Istanbul.  He is coeditor, with Jennifer McCoy, of “Polarization and  Democracy: A Janus-faced Relationship with Pernicious Consequences,” a special volume of American Behavioral Scientist (2018) and author of Return to Point Zero: The Turkish-Kurdish Question and How Politics and Ideas (Re)Make Empires, Nations and States (2022).

View all work by Murat Somer