Streitsüchtig describes our politics perfectly. We are addicted to conflict, and it’s only getting worse. The addiction is not endemic to any one spot on the political spectrum, nor is it confined to unreasonable reactions to Trump’s more reasonable moments. And as long as it remains, I struggle to see a scenario in which we return to any semblance of the political normalcy many say they desire.
What makes our streitsüchtig state so insidious is it really does have biological similarities to addiction. When politics gets a rise out of us, it triggers the same fight or flight response real danger can engender. Our bodies experience the same heightened levels levels of the hormone cortisol. And when we feel we’ve won an argument, our brain self-rewards with more hormones, adrenaline, and dopamine. They create “a feeling any of us would want to replicate,” writes Judith E. Glaser at Harvard Business Review. “So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.”