“Are we living through the stupidest possible moment in American history?” I genuinely wanted to know.

Let the record show that Cornell Clayton paused. In fairness, he was being set up.

Cornell Clayton.

Clayton is a professor and the director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University. He studies subjects like politics, polarization, civility and our discourse.

Perhaps, he suggested, it might not be “whether we are living through an unusually ‘stupid’ period in history, as much as whether a politics based on the Enlightenment values of science, reason and humanism — upon which this country and other modern democracies are founded — has become more vulnerable in the face of broad social, cultural and economic changes.”

Socially, things like globalization, the technology revolution, and the various cultural revolutions,” Clayton proposed, have given “rise to a ‘tribal’ or identity style of politics on both the left and the right.”

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