America at a Crossroads: Exploring the Deepening Political Divide

America at a Crossroads: Exploring the Deepening Political Divide

Judy Woodruff’s PBS documentary delves into the causes and consequences of America’s growing political polarization.

In a time of unprecedented political division, Judy Woodruff, anchor of PBS NewsHour, embarked on a year-long reporting project titled “America at a Crossroads.” The project aimed to understand the roots of this division by engaging with everyday Americans across the country. The documentary, set to air on Tuesday, December 19, sheds light on the reasons behind the deepening political divide and the impact it has on society.

The Rise of Negative Partisanship:

Woodruff’s journey took her to 14 states, where she encountered a nation grappling with the consequences of its divided political landscape. From rural communities to urban centers, she witnessed a growing trend of negative partisanship, where individuals not only hold differing political views but also harbor animosity towards those who disagree with them. This phenomenon has led to a toxic environment where people label their opponents as ignorant or immoral.

The Role of Political Rhetoric:

Woodruff discovered that the political rhetoric prevalent on the national stage plays a significant role in fueling this division. Teresa Barickman, a parent in a rural Pennsylvania community torn apart by debates over banning books and controlling classroom discussions on race, pointed to the impact of political rhetoric. She noted that the rhetoric empowers individuals, making them feel justified in expressing derogatory opinions about others. The influence of national politics on local communities cannot be underestimated.

The Media’s Influence:

Woodruff’s reporting also highlighted the role of the news media in exacerbating the political divide. Through television, radio, and social media, Americans are constantly exposed to angry and divisive discourse. This relentless exposure has led to the reinforcement of negative assumptions about those on the opposing side. The media’s portrayal of political narratives has contributed to the polarization of American society.

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Bridging the Divide:

Despite the deepening divide, Woodruff encountered instances of individuals and groups attempting to bridge the partisan gap. In Cleveland, she met with a mixed partisan group called “Braver Angels,” who are committed to fostering dialogue and understanding across political lines. Mark Nieberding, a Republican member of the group, expressed his frustration at the tendency to discount individuals based on their political affiliations. He emphasized that such divisive behavior goes against the principles upon which the nation was founded.


“America at a Crossroads” offers a poignant reflection on the state of the nation and the challenges it faces due to its deepening political divide. Woodruff’s reporting demonstrates that negative partisanship has permeated communities across the country, fueled by political rhetoric and media influences. However, it also highlights the resilience of individuals and groups striving to bridge the gap and restore a sense of unity. As the documentary airs, it serves as a call to action for Americans to engage in civil discourse and find common ground amidst the turmoil. Only through understanding and empathy can the nation navigate its way out of this crossroads and towards a more united future.