COVID-19 Could Bring A Fractured Nation Together

This Columbia University professor argues that unprecedented crises can create common goals, and challenges Detroit Today listeners to imagine a better future after COVID-19.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit an America already plagued with deep rooted political polarization.

“When there is a threat of this magnitude, history teaches us that it provides a common goal that can unify us.” — Peter Coleman, Columbia University

The profound partisan divide has even impacted the way people interpret and react to the COVID-19 health crisis. This pandemic has held a mirror up to American society, exposing fissures in the country’s foundation and leaving many asking, where do we go next? 

Click on the player above to hear how the coronavirus pandemic could shock us out of polarization. 


Peter T. Coleman, professor of psychology at Columbia University and author of “The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization,” says the current pandemic could actually shift the country’s intense political polarization.

“When there is a threat of this magnitude, history teaches us that it provides a common goal that can unify us,” says Coleman.

According to Coleman the United Stated has been on about a 50-year trajectory of increased polarization, culminating in the acute divide we see today. Polarization this deeply entrenched is stubborn and hard to eradicate. It requires a destabilizing shock, like the COVID-19 pandemic, to create change, says Coleman. 

Coleman says a catastrophe of this magnitude exposes the fragility in our society.

“It turns the heat up on everything,” says Coleman. This heat has the ability to change societal and neurological structures.

Events liked the COVID-19 pandemic upend accepted norms and habits, say Coleman, leaving room for change.

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