Red and Blue Nation?

Red and Blue Nation?: Consequences and Correction of America's Polarized Politics

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Brookings Institution Press, ,
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Red and Blue Nation?
    Book Description:

    America's polarized politics are largely disconnected from mainstream public preferences. This disconnect poses fundamental dangers for the representativeness and accountability of government, as well as the already withering public trust in it. As the 2008 presidential race kicks into gear, the political climate certainly will not become less polarized. With important issues to address -including immigration policy, health care, and the funding of the Iraq war -it is critical that essential policies not be hostage to partisan political battles. Building upon the findings of the first volume of Red and Blue Nation? (Brookings, 2006), which explored the extent of political polarization and its potential causes, this new volume delves into the consequences of the gulf between "red states" and "blue states." The authors examine the impact of these political divisions on voter behavior, Congressional law-making, judicial selection, and foreign policy formation. They shed light on hotly debated institutional reform proposals -including changes to the electoral system and the congressional rules of engagement -and ultimately present research-supported policies and reforms for alleviating the underlying causes of political polarization. While most discussion of polarization takes place in separate spheres of journalism and academia, Red and Blue Nation? brings together a unique set of voices with a wide variety of perspectives to enrich our understanding of the issue. Written in a broad, accessible style, it is a resource for anyone interested in the future of electoral politics in America. Contributors include Marc Hetherington and John G. Geer (Vanderbilt University), Deborah Jordan Brooks (Dartmouth College), Martin P. Wattenberg (University of California, Irvine), Barbara Sinclair and Joel D. Aberbach (UCLA), Christopher H. Foreman (University of Maryland), Keith Krehbiel (Stanford University), Sarah A. Binder, Benjamin Wittes, Jonathan Rauch, and William A. Galston (Brookings), Martin Shapiro (University of California-Berkeley), Peter Beinart (Council on Foreign Relations), James Q. Wilson (Pepperdine University), John Ferejohn and Larry Diamond (Hoover Institution), Laurel Harbridge (Stanford University), Andrea L. Campbell (MIT), and Eric M. Patashnik (University of Virginia).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-6078-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Strobe Talbott

    Is partisanship as American as apple pie—and as the two-party system? How much partisanship is inevitable? How much is healthy? How much is destructive? And what about this habit we Americans have fallen into of color-coding our nation in a way that suggests we’re really two nations?

    All these questions are in order, I believe, to introduce this book, since they are ones that my colleague at Brookings, Pietro Nivola, his co-editor, David Brady of the Hoover Institution, and the authors address in this second volume of their study of partisanship. Fittingly, their title for the series—Red and...

  4. 1 Turned Off or Turned On? How Polarization Affects Political Engagement
    (pp. 1-54)
    Marc J. Hetherington

    The scholarly debate about the existence of polarization in the U.S. electorate continues to rage. Using a wide array of survey data on people’s self-reported issue preferences, Fiorina argues that preferences are not moving toward the ideological poles. Rather most voters remain moderate on most issues.¹ Others counter that the differences between party adherents have become significantly starker of late, which they take as evidence of polarization.² Fiorina characterizes such mass-level party differences as relatively small and, to the extent that they have increased, a function of more effective party sorting, not polarization. To use the nomenclature of the debate,...

  5. 2 Spoiling the Sausages? How a Polarized Congress Deliberates and Legislates
    (pp. 55-106)
    Barbara Sinclair

    A majority-party member of the august Ways and Means Committee tells a senior colleague of the minority party to “shut up,” and the colleague responds by saying, “You think you are big enough to make me, you little wimp? Come on, come over here and make me, I dare you, you little fruitcake.”¹ The chair of the Judiciary Committee pulls the plug figuratively—by abruptly gaveling to a close—and literally—by turning off the microphones—on a hearing when his Democratic colleagues use it as a forum to criticize the president.² The majority staff of the same committee rewrites...

  6. 3 Consequences for the Courts: Polarized Politics and the Judicial Branch
    (pp. 107-150)
    Sarah A. Binder

    The portrait of polarized parties is a familiar one to scholars and observers of the U.S. Congress. Over the past thirty years, the parties’ centers of gravity have moved toward their wings, leaving few centrist legislators to hold the political center. Although we know much about the contours and causes of polarization, we know far less about its consequences. Given concerns about the breakdown in the confirmation process as the two parties quarrel over the ideological tenor of recent judicial nominees, this chapter focuses on patterns in judicial selection in the years since World War II to show that polarization...

  7. 4 When Politics No Longer Stops at the Water’s Edge: Partisan Polarization and Foreign Policy
    (pp. 151-184)
    Peter Beinart

    I magine if Harry Truman’s aid to Greece and Turkey, or the Berlin Airlift, or the Korean War had been conducted in such a partisan manner—and turned into such a historic catastrophe—that it polarized Americans on the very notion of a “cold war.” That is what has happened to American foreign policy since the war in Iraq. After the September 11 attacks, President Bush offered Americans a new framework for seeing the world—the “war on terror”—which they overwhelmingly embraced. At first, when the war on terror meant war in Afghanistan, the bipartisan consensus held. But when...

  8. 5 Polarization and Public Policy: A General Assessment
    (pp. 185-234)
    David W. Brady, John Ferejohn and Laurel Harbridge

    In the first volume generated by the Brookings–Hoover study on polarization in American politics, William Galston and Pietro Nivola correctly state that polarization is a serious concern if it “can be demonstrated to imperil the democratic process or the prospects of attending to urgent political priorities.”¹ Their essay draws attention to a number of areas where it is alleged that polarization has negative consequences, including endangering the health of vital public institutions such as Congress, the courts, and the news media; reducing the responsiveness and accountability of the political process and the government to the citizenry; gridlock over major...

  9. 6 Toward Depolarization
    (pp. 235-308)
    Pietro S. Nivola and William A. Galston

    We began this project asking basic questions: In what sense are the politics of the United States “polarized”? How deep does the polarization run? How does it compare with the politics of other periods in American history? What are its causes and adverse consequences? And which remedies for it make sense?

    We now have reasonably reliable answers to these queries. Two large blocs of people—amounting to as much as two-thirds of all American voters—cleave consistently to one political party or the other in presidential elections.¹ In each of these blocs, about three-quarters of the voters appear to have...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 309-312)
  11. Index
    (pp. 313-320)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-321)