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There are numerous reasons American politics went off the rails, but there are at least six seminal events in the past 24 years that steered us here.

Be smart: Politics is growing more personal, polarized and pugnacious. This dynamic is particularly acute on the right. This will likely get worse before it gets better as the trends outlined below continue unabated.

Expand chart
Reproduced from a Pew Research Political Polarization report; Graphic: Axios Visuals
  1. Newt Gingrich, in the early 1990s, weaponized warfare politics in a methodical and sustained way. In tactics and rhetoric, Gingrich ushered in a good-versus-evil style that persists today.
  2. Fox News, created in 1996, televised and monetized this hard-edged combat politics. This created the template for MSNBC to do the same on the left, giving both sides a place to fuel and fund rage 24/7. CNN soon went all politics, all day, making governance a show in need of drama.
  3. Facebook and later Twitter socialized rage and argument. Now every nut with an opinion could find fans and followers to cheer/egg him or her on. This happened as the middle in politics was officially purged from Congress.
  4. John McCain picking Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, celebritized rage politics. Until that moment, Republicans typically picked conventional, next-in-line candidates. Palin, made for cable and social media, was the precursor to Trump.
  5. Facebook, starting in 2015, algorithm-ized rage. The more emotion you felt and sought, the more the news-feed machine pumped at you. With no one looking, fake news was born and metastasizing.
  6. Twitter + Trump, starting in 2016, habitualized and radicalized the moment-by-moment rage and reaction of politicians, voters and the media. This created more froth and more fog and resulted in a spike of people who don't believe real news, much less the fake news pulsing through the system.

The bottom line: Now all of this has been institutionalized. No wonder people don't trust, like or believe politicians — or often each other.

Fun fact: A Pew poll on partisanship found Republicans and Democrats no longer even want to live near each other.

  • 75% of conservatives want to live where "houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores, and restaurants are several miles away."
  • 75% percent of liberals want to live where "houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores, and restaurants are within walking distance."

Go deeper: This 2016 piece in The Atlantic smartly offers other causes of dysfunctional politics/governance.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Anita Dunn advises Dems on economy message for '22

Signs from a President Biden event yesterday in Kansas City, Mo. Photo: Chase Castor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a midterm preview, top Democratic strategist Anita Dunn advises the party's House and Senate members to frame Republicans "as being against the economic interests of working Americans."

What she's saying: "Explicitly framing Republicans as opposing policies to lower costs does better than simply framing Republicans as the 'party of no,'" Dunn, White House senior adviser until August, writes in the memo.

JPMorgan: "Full global recovery" in 2022

Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase Global Research says in a forecast to clients: "2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the global pandemic, and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak."

The big picture: The bullish report sees "a return of global mobility, and a release of pent-up demand from consumers (e.g. travel, services)."

Inside Trump's hunt for "disloyal" Republicans

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Donald Trump and his associates are systematically reshaping the Republican Party, working to install hand-picked loyalists across federal and state governments and destroy those he feels have been disloyal, sources close to the former president tell Axios.

Why it matters: If most or all of Trump’s candidates win, he will go into the 2024 election cycle with far more people willing to do his bidding who run the elections in key states.