Tom Allen on Why We are Split
Very interesting excerpt from his new book, one which clarifies why the political split in this country just keeps getting worse and worse. The book is called "Dangerous Convictions: What's Really Wrong with the US Congress", from Oxford University Press.
The principal reason for our polarization is the increasing incompatibility of Democratic and Republican ideas about individualism and community. The inability to compromise is primarily driven by the growing ideological rigidity of Republicans, which has become hostile to almost any form of government action across a wide range of disparate subjects.
The sources and power of that ideological rigidity are worth further examination. The set of ideas that led American conservatives into what is essentially a libertarian camp were not much in evidence for the 25 years after the end of World War II. Then they grew, promoted by thinkers like F. A. Hayek, Robert Nozick and, perhaps most significantly, Ayn Rand, whose two novels about heroic individuals captivated many Americans.
A second important factor was the organization and funding by wealthy American conservatives of right-wing think tanks, university chairs, and ultimately mass media, talk radio, and Fox News. The Fox News Channel has captured a significant portion of the American public with its emotional, opinionated commentary, but it is frequently judged the least accuate news channel with the least well-informed audience.
Another factor was the explicit strategy developed by Newt Gingrich when he entered the House of Representatives in 1978 — a strategy designed to win power for his party by portraying Congress as a corrupt institution not to be trusted by people outside of Washington. In his first term in Congress, Gingrich participated in a program of the American Enterprise Institute tracking members of Congress over several years. He had from the beginning a fully formed strategy for winning control of the House by intensifying “public hatred of Congress” so the voters would throw out the majority Democrats. It was a remarkably successful political strategy but achieved at great social cost.
Warning - this is not an article for TL;DR types. Stick with it and think about the points.