Youth Talk: Are We Too Polarized to Govern? The Importance of Working Across Political Divides

How can young voters navigate a divided political landscape? Should we be afraid of this upcoming election cycle? Is our democracy falling apart? How can we save it?

The events of January 6, 2021, epitomized the destructive effects of extreme polarization in politics. As we move into our next election cycle, where the two leading presidential candidates are once again Joe Biden and Donald Trump, many young voters are facing—and fearing—existential questions about our democracy, in what experts say is the United States’s most divided political landscape ever.

“Are We Too Polarized to Govern?” presents accomplished Gen Z leaders who are working to foster bipartisan solutions to the toxic polarization that is causing so much anxiety for young people. The program will be led by UC Berkeley Political Science Professor Darren Zook and will feature Alia Braley, Cal Ph,D, candidate and author of the recent article, “Why Voters Who Support Democracy Participate in Democratic Backsliding”; Alexandra Leal Silva, associate at California Common Cause and host of the podcast “Democracy Is”; and Saanvi Arora, UC Berkeley student and director at the Youth Power Project. Panelists will discuss how and why we can exist and communicate in a diverse civil society and explore ways that young people can use their power to overcome political divides to strengthen and rebuild our democracy for the next generation.

This event is part of the Creating Citizens Speaker Series at UC Berkeley, a partnership between Commonwealth Club World Affairs, the Associated Students of the University of California Vote Coalition, and the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. The series gives UC Berkeley students and community members opportunities to listen to and ask questions of leading minds in politics, media and education as they learn how to become better, more involved citizens. We look forward to welcoming community members and students from around the Bay Area to participate in this riveting conversation and to join us for future programs in the Creating Citizens Speaker Series.


This program is part of The Commonwealth Club’s civics education initiative, Creating Citizens.


Koret Foundation and Creating Citizens


Produced in partnership with the EAVP Vote Coalition.


EAVP Vote Coalition


Photos courtesy the speakers.

Image - Saanvi Arora

Saanvi Arora

UC Berkeley Student; Executive Director, the Youth Power Project

Image - Alia Braley

Alia Braley

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, University of California Berkeley; X @aliabraley

Image - Alexandra Leal Silva

Alexandra Leal Silva

Associate, California Common Cause; Host, "Democracy Is" Podcast. Instagram & TikTok @commoncauseca

Image - Darren Zook

Darren Zook

Professor of Political Science and Global Studies, University of California Berkeley