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.
Praise for Divided Politics, Divided Nation
“At a time of widespread polarization, it is vital to understand why liberals and conservatives mistrust one another. Darrell West draws on his personal history of growing up in a conservative community and teaching in the Ivy League to write a heartfelt account of America’s tribes and how we might bring them back together. Readers will gain tremendous understanding of contemporary divisions from the entertaining stories he tells.”—George Stephanopoulos, ABC News
“What divides our nation goes much deeper than politics. Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West looks at polarization from the high altitude of elite academia, and the ground-level perspective of his own life, which began in a conservative, deeply religious rural community. Along the way, he discovers surprising insights about life in conservative and liberal America.”—Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post
“Lots of Americans correctly worry about deepening polarization in our politics, but few seem to know what to do about it. Darrell West is an exception; he’s lived in both Red and Blue worlds, understands both, and sprinkles his book with very personal stories that enliven his narrative. West first thoughtfully analyzes how we got to such a disturbing divide and then makes some useful suggestions for dealing with it. It’s time to think carefully and map out a way forward. Darrell West has already begun that cartography in this perceptive, readable volume.”—Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and professor of Politics at the University of Virginia
“A riveting account, part memoir and part analysis, that explains how we descended into our current social and political quagmire and gives helpful suggestions for finding our way out.”—Bart Ehrman, James A Gray Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“A valued, insightful, thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution to our current and on-going political discussion with respect to the polarization of the electorate and its implications for the survival of our American style democracy.”—Midwest Book Review
Darrell M. West is vice president of the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution and taught for many years at Brown University. He is the author of The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation; Megachange: Economic Disruption, Political Upheaval, and Social Strife in the 21st Century; and Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust.
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