Why The Divide

The DNA of Our Political Differences


Producer, Director, Writer


Producer, Editor, Writer

Why The Divide

The DNA of Our Political Differences

What is it that strikes a chord with voters? Why do the viewpoints of any given politician bring derision from some voters while motivating and becoming the rallying cry for others? And why is it that these differences become so inextricable that they sometimes lead to turmoil and conflict?

The goal of our documentary, Why the Divide, is to cut through the noise and help all of us better understand the nature of our political differences. When we started researching this project, we were curious about why someone becomes either liberal or conservative, moderate or extreme.

We assumed that culture, education, geography and the constant presence of media would be the major factors. And while they are important, what we found is intriguing scientific evidence that our DNA plays a significant role -- much larger than you might think -- in forming our innate political convictions. Studies have proven that DNA predisposes us to lean to the left or the right. And while this predisposition is neither destiny nor fate, it does impact how we react to bedrock social and political issues.

Our story will take viewers on a "nature/nurture" journey as we interview the authors of the DNA studies and speak with political and media experts. We'll examine how people react to "right-sounding" claims, why they respond positively to negative campaigning, and why they tend to demonize the other side.

Our story will end with a look into the future where DNA editing is likely to become commonplace. This raises a far-reaching ethical question: Could money and science control the political views of future generations?

We've been in contact with prominent scientists and experts who will help us tell this story (see below). Like us, they believe that given the current political climate, this is a story that needs to be told. With the players in place, we are currently seeking financial support to take this film from concept to reality. We believe that "Why The Divide" will move audiences away from political intolerance and toward a more understanding viewpoint. Viewers will come to see that the other side isn't quite as crazy as they might have thought, that while we sometimes use different methods, we often seek the same results; that truly we are all in this together.

Why The Divide Teaser:



The Experts Behind Our Project

The Information Driving Our Questions

Avi Tuschman
Author, Our Political Nature

The leading book on the origins of our political leanings. Avi Tuschman's ground-breaking work on the BIOLOGY of tribalism and personality traits is so thorough that our toughest choice in the edit room will be deciding what to leave out.

John Hibbing
Lead Author, Predisposed

The startling research of Doctor John Hibbing provides proof that DNA plays a large part of how we feel about candidates and their ideology. He is at the forefront of the movement to incorporate biology into the study of politics.

Clay Johnson
Author, The Information Diet

Clay explores the parallels between industrialized media and industrialized agriculture and the social consequences of poor information comsumption habits. He has been a commentator on NPR, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and FOX NEWS.

Adriel Hampton
Founder, The Adriel Hampton Group

A journalist, organizer, government strategist and consultant, Hampton was the Chief Organizer of Nation Builder and is a frequent speaker on digital transformation, tech-enabled collaboration, startup growth and social media.

Robert Epstein
Author, Irrelativity

Former Editor-in-Chief of Psychology Today, Dr. Epstein is a Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and a contributing editor for Scientific American Mind. His forthcoming book is The New Mind Control.

Paul Paolicelli
Emmy Award Winning Journalist

Paul will share his insights into the changing face of television news and its impact on voter preferences. He is the former Washington Bureau Chief for NBC Television Stations, a Peabody Award nominee, and a winner of the Columbia-duPont Award.

We're Not Alone In Our Concerns

"The nonstop fighting between our two political parties has left many Americans feeling like the children of two permanently divorcing parents."
Author and Columnist Thomas L. Friedman

"Neither political party is clean when it comes to tactics that divide our people."
Roy Barnes, Democratic Governor, Georgia (1999-2003)

"In our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds – that which is their own and that
which is false and dangerous."

Robert H. Jackson, US Attorney General (1940-41) and Supreme Court Justice (1941-54)

Abstract: They find stark evidence that polarized environments fundamentally change how citizens make decisions, and in their estimation, make for lower quality opinions. Specifically, polarization intensifies the impact of party endorsements over substantive information, and perhaps ironically, stimulates greater confidence in those less substantively grounded opinions.
Abstract on “How Elite Partisan Polarization Affects Public Opinion Formation” by James Druckman, Northwestern Univ., Erik Peterson, Northwestern Univ. and Rune Sloth's, Asrhus Univ.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), Women As Outlaws

"Politics, after all, is largely about power. And power goes to the core of our issues of control and narcissism and the need to be right and the tendency to divide the human race into 'us' vs. 'them.'"
John Ortberg, Pastor and Christian author

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."
John Adams

"The extremes of both parties have to be willing to accept compromises from time to time to make some progress because some progress for the American people is better than nothing, and all too often recently, we've been getting nothing."
Evan Bayh, Former Democratic Governor and Senator, Indiana

"I think America is going to have to think through whether it wants to uplift the political dialogue or advance an approach that divides and, frankly, can lead to violence."
Jim Leach, Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2009-2013 and member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa (1977–2007).

"Make no mistake — our political system was built by men in vigorous conflict with one another, but there’s a spark that comes from opposing ideas sharing the same space. It’s the purpose of the two chambers of Congress and the party system. Our strength comes from the disagreement, but we need to harness it properly and use it for something beyond the destruction of the other side. Reaching for compromise is no less than the duty of our elected representatives."
Former Republican and Democratic Senators, Trent Lott and Tom Daschle. Washington Post, 12/31/2015

"I do find it frustrating … that an atmosphere of polarization and "my way or the highway" ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions. It's not healthy for the country to have parties with polar opposite views without that bridge that you need to build consensus."
Olympia Snowe, US Senator, Maine, (1995-2013)

"If we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line to our own, we become more polarized, more set in our own ways. It will only reinforce and deepen the political divides in our country. But if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from."
Barack Obama, University of Michigan Commencement, 2010


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Dennis Maneri is a Communications Facilitator; his work is more than what he does, it’s who he is.