Book Political Divide

Divided Politics, Divided Nation
by Darrell M. West

Why are Americans so angry with each other?

The United States is caught in a partisan hyperconflict that divides politicians, communities—and even families. Politicians from the president to state and local office-holders play to strongly-held beliefs and sometimes even pour fuel on the resulting inferno. This polarization has become so intense that many people no longer trust anyone from a differing perspective.

Drawing on his personal story of growing up as a fundamentalist Christian on a dairy farm in rural Ohio, then as an academic in the heart of the liberal East Coast establishment, Darrell West analyzes the economic, cultural, and political aspects of polarization. He takes advantage of his experiences inside both conservative and liberal camps to explain the views of each side and offer insights into why each is angry with the other.

West argues that societal tensions have metastasized into a dangerous tribalism that seriously threatens U.S. democracy. Unless people can bridge these divisions and forge a new path forward, it will be impossible to work together, maintain a functioning democracy, and solve the country’s pressing policy problems.

by Paris N. Donehoo, Keith M. Parsons

An atheist philosopher and a Protestant minister interact in a constructive and respectful dialogue about their differing views on life, stressing the importance of honesty, civility, and community engagement at a time of polarized politics.

Unity in diversity (e pluribus unum) — the quintessential American value– is under assault today, and along with it, our sense of shared community. In this book, an atheist philosopher and a United Church of Christ pastor demonstrate that common ground can still be found even by people with very different perspectives on life. In short, difference need not mean division.

The authors focus on the importance of truthfulness, civility, and community. In a respectful dialogue, they exchange ideas on the nature of truth, the importance of honesty, the value of civility, the definition of community in a pluralistic society, respecting differences while avoiding divisiveness, and the consequences to our nation when ideological rancor and the demonizing of opponents dominate the public square.

The authors have a personal stake as well as an intellectual interest in these issues, as they met in childhood and have maintained their friendship over the decades despite their very different life choices and career paths. They both view with alarm the widening fissures developing among Americans and conclude by pointing out a similar preference for diatribe over rational debate in the decades preceding the Civil War.

At a time of shrill rhetoric, this measured, reasoned discussion between two friends shows that communication and respect are possible between people of good will.

Why Cities Lose
by Jonathan A. Rodden

A prizewinning political scientist traces the origins of urban-rural political conflict and shows how geography shapes elections in America and beyond
Why is it so much easier for the Democratic Party to win the national popular vote than to build and maintain a majority in Congress? Why can Democrats sweep statewide offices in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan yet fail to take control of the same states’ legislatures? Many place exclusive blame on partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression. But as political scientist Jonathan A. Rodden demonstrates in Why Cities Lose, the left’s electoral challenges have deeper roots in economic and political geography.
In the late nineteenth century, support for the left began to cluster in cities among the industrial working class. Today, left-wing parties have become coalitions of diverse urban interest groups, from racial minorities to the creative class. These parties win big in urban districts but struggle to capture the suburban and rural seats necessary for legislative majorities. A bold new interpretation of today’s urban-rural political conflict, Why Cities Lose also points to electoral reforms that could address the left’s under-representation while reducing urban-rural polarization.

The Great Divide
by William Gairdner

The theme of The Great Divide is that the populations of the democratic world, from Boston to Berlin, Vancouver to Venice, are becoming increasingly divided from within, due to a growing ideological incompatibility between modern liberalism and conservatism. This is partly due to a complex mutation in the concept of liberal democracy itself, and the resulting divide is now so wide that those holding to either philosophy on a whole range of topics: on democracy, on reason, on abortion, on human nature, on homosexuality and gay marriage, on freedom, on the role of courts … and much more, can barely speak with each other without outrage (the favorite emotional response from all sides). Clearly, civil conversation at the surface has been failing — and that could mean democracy is failing.

This book is an effort to deepen the conversation. It is written for the non-specialist, and aims to reveal the less obvious underlying ideological forces and misconceptions that cause the conflict and outrage at the surface — not with any expectation the clash of values will evaporate, but rather that a deeper understanding will generate a more intelligent and civil conversation.

As an aid to understanding, the book contains a handful of Tables directly comparing modern liberal and conservative views across a range of fundamental moral and political “issues” so that curious readers can answer the book’s main question: “Where Do You Stand?” An interesting result in testing this exercise has been the number of people who find they “think” one way, but “live” another.

The Righteous Mind
by Jonathan Haidt

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe from you? Why do ideas such as ‘fairness’ and ‘freedom’ mean such different things to different people? Why is it so easy to see the flaws in others’ arguments, and less in our own? Jonathan Haidt, one of the world’s most influential psychologists, reveals that the reason we find it so hard to get along is because our minds are designed to be moral. Not only that, we are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous too. Our intrinsic morality enabled us to form communities and create civilization, and it is the key to understanding political and religious divisions. It explains why some of us are liberal, others conservative. It is often the difference between war and peace. It is also why we are the only species that will kill for an ideal. Drawing on moral psychology, ancient philosophy, modern politics, advertising and the semantics of bumper stickers, Haidt’s incredibly wise and enjoyable book examines how morality evolved ; why we are predisposed to believe certain things ; how our surroundings can affect our morality ; and how moral values are not just about justice and fairness – for some people authority, sanctity or loyalty are more important. Morality binds and blinds, but with new evidence from his own empirical research, Haidt shows that it is possible to liberate ourselves from the disputes that divide good people and cooperate with those whose morals differ from our own. After all, they might just have something to say.

The Partisan Divide
by Thomas Milburn Davis, Jonas Martin Frost, David Eisenhower, Richard E. Cohen

“Martin Frost and Tom Davis are uniquely qualified to examine how constant conflict in Washington keeps too many good things from happening. “The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis “is a smart book that asks the right questions and offers some intriguing solutions.” — President Bill Clinton

During their 40 years in Congress, Martin Frost and Tom Davis were the field generals for their respective parties, each serving two terms as chair of the Democratic and Republican House campaign committees. Now they have joined forces — along with columnist Richard Cohen — in an effort to save Congress from itself.

According to the authors, Congress is incapable of reforming itself without a good kick in the seat from the American public. Frost and Davis, with great insight and skill, along with a wealth of anecdotes and photos, dissect the causes of legislative gridlock and offer a common sense, bipartisan plan for making our Congress function again.

The Preface by Pulitzer Prize finalist David Eisenhower sets the stage for this powerful behind-the-scenes narrative that uncovers the past road to the present political gridlock — and then offers thought-provoking insights and possibilities for the way out.

A wide array of Republicans, Democrats, former presidents, and congressional colleagues, as well as many of today’s most highly respected news correspondents and analysts, have come together in broad, bi-partisan, consensus support for this book and its message.

“The Partisan Divide: Congress in Crisis” is a fascinating “must-read” for the historically and politically curious — as well as every citizen of the United States!

“As bipartisan progress becomes ever scarcer in Washington, Frost and Davis have come together to present thought-provoking ideas and insights from four decades of collective experience in Congress.  In their powerful insiders’ account of the road into political gridlock, readers will find both the full extent of the problem and new possibilities for a way out.” — Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader and 60th Speaker of the House

“This book by two veteran politicians — one a Democrat and one a Republican — shows just how broken our political system is and how difficult it is going to be to get it back on track.” — Bob Schieffer, Moderator of “Face the Nation” and Chief Washington Correspondent CBS News

Prophets and Patriots
by Ruth Braunstein

“In the wake of the Great Recession, Americans across the political divide flocked to local citizens organizations, where they worked to refocus political attention on the needs of ordinary people like them. This book chronicles the efforts of two such groups–a progressive faith-based community organizing coalition and a conservative Tea Party group. At first glance, these groups could not seem more different: in addition to significant demographic differences between them, their members also lined up on opposite sides of nearly every national policy debate during this period. But these differences do not tell the whole story of these groups. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with both groups, this book reveals surprising similarities between their efforts that are typically not acknowledged, while also tracing more subtle differences between them that typically go unrecognized. It shows that in the face of rising anxiety and frustration, members of both groups chose to wake up, stand up, and speak up. They dedicated themselves to becoming active citizens, capable of inserting their voices, values, and knowledge into public debates about issues that impacted them. In so doing, they came to understand themselves as prophets and patriots, respectively, carrying forward the promise of American democracy. Yet when the groups set out to actually enact this vision – by holding government accountable and putting their faith in action – their styles of active citizenship diverged, reflecting different ways of imagining how American democracy ought to work and the proper role of active citizens within it.”–Provided by publisher.

Bridging the Racial & Political Divide
by Alice Patterson

Some would say, “Now is not the time to talk about race in politics. America is divided and needs to be united.” Alice Patterson demonstrates that now is the time to discuss what has divided us and how to bring transformation to our nation. In this book you will find reconciliation and racial healing in an unlikely place-the political arena. Is God interested in politics? Does He want you to get involved? Can ordinary citizens have real power instead of just influence? Can we empower evil powers without even realizing it? Is tolerance a virtue or a sin? These answers and more are found in Bridging the Racial & Political Divide.

The Red and the Blue
by Steve Kornacki

From MSNBC correspondent Steve Kornacki, a lively and sweeping history of the birth of political tribalism in the 1990s—one that brings critical new understanding to our current political landscape from Clinton to Trump

In The Red and the Blue, cable news star and acclaimed journalist Steve Kornacki follows the twin paths of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, two larger-than-life politicians who exploited the weakened structure of their respective parties to attain the highest offices. For Clinton, that meant contorting himself around the various factions of the Democratic party to win the presidency. Gingrich employed a scorched-earth strategy to upend the permanent Republican minority in the House, making him Speaker. 

The Clinton/Gingrich battles were bare-knuckled brawls that brought about massive policy shifts and high-stakes showdowns—their collisions had far-reaching political consequences. But the ’90s were not just about them.  Kornacki writes about Mario Cuomo’s stubborn presence around Clinton’s 1992 campaign; Hillary Clinton’s star turn during the 1998 midterms, seeding the idea for her own candidacy; Ross Perot’s wild run in 1992 that inspired him to launch the Reform Party, giving Donald Trump his first taste of electoral politics in 1999; and many others. 

With novelistic prose and a clear sense of history, Steve Kornacki masterfully weaves together the various elements of this rambunctious and hugely impactful era in American history, whose effects set the stage for our current political landscape.

Your Brain’s Politics
by George Lakoff, Elisabeth Wehling

At first glance, issues like economic inequality, healthcare, climate change, and abortion seem unrelated. However, when thinking and talking about them, people reliably fall into two camps: conservative and liberal. What explains this divide? Why do conservatives and liberals hold the positions they do? And what is the conceptual nature of those who decide elections, commonly called the "political middle"? The answers are profound. They have to do with how our minds and brains work. Political attitudes are the product of what cognitive scientists call Embodied Cognition — the grounding of abstract thought in everyday world experience. Clashing beliefs about how to run nations largely arise from conflicting beliefs about family life: conservatives endorse a strict father and liberals a nurturant parent model. So-called "middle" voters are not in the middle at all. They are morally biconceptual, divided between both models, and as a result highly susceptible to moral political persuasion. In this brief introduction, Lakoff and Wehling reveal how cognitive science research has advanced our understanding of political thought and language, forcing us to revise common folk theories about the rational voter.

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