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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

34 mins ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 55 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.

The week markets went wild

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio

The markets just closed out a manic week.

Why it matters: Outsized — and in some cases historic — moves were evident across the board.