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‘Dangerous, Dirty Places That Make Citizens Afraid to Speak’

So the real challenge isn’t how to get tribalism out of politics. It’s how to design a system that pays heed to our inherent shortcomings. In a recent interview with Haidt, he zeroed in on two critical ingredients: political reform and social media reform. “The worst number of political parties to have in a country is one,” he says. “But the second worst number is two.”

Two political tribes, equally convinced they possess the moral high-ground, might seek to rule through open confrontation with the aim to subjugate. On the other hand, three political tribes or more can be more incentivized to seek alliances. But with the country’s two-party system unlikely to go anywhere any time soon, Haidt suggests steps to rein in the power of the extremes on both sides.

One idea: requiring open primaries for all elections so people don’t have to be a member of a certain party to vote. Another is detoxifying the public square through a serious social media overhaul, an idea gaining more currency after the revelations of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The following transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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