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As we wrap up the year at The Masthead, we’re reflecting on how this ongoing experiment in community-oriented journalism is going. One of the most meaningful projects for us has been the debate we conducted on gun control after the mass violence in Las Vegas. In this issue, I’ll lay out some of the lingering questions the project raised for how political discourse is conducted today.

Which came first, the political dysfunction or the partisan divide?

Events like this week’s party-line vote on tax policy can make it feel like politics are dividing us even further. But that causation may be reversed. According to Pew Research’s Carroll Doherty, a growing divide in the population on issues like gun control is driving legislators to take more polarized positions. “These gaps on these fundamental values are underlying some of the divisions you see between Democrats and Republicans in Congress when they debate specific issues,” he told NPR.

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