Red and Blue Nation?

Red and Blue Nation?: Characteristics and Causes of America's Polarized Politics

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Brookings Institution Press, ,
Pages: 317
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  • Book Info
    Red and Blue Nation?
    Book Description:

    Analysts and pundits increasingly perceive a widening gulf between "red states" and "blue states." Yet the research to support that perception is scattered and sometimes difficult to parse. America's polarized politics, it is said, poses fundamental dangers for democratic and accountable government. Heightened partisanship is thought to degrade deliberation in Congress and threaten the integrity of other institutions, from the courts to the media. But, how deep do the country's political divisions actually run? Are they truly wreaking havoc upon the social fabric? Has America become a house divided? This important new book, Red and Blue Nation?, gets to the bottom of this perplexing issue. The first of two volumes cosponsored by Brookings and the Hoover Institution carefully considers the extent to which polarized views among political leaders and activists are reflected in the population at large. It pays particular attention to factors such as the increased influence of religion and the changing nature of the media. The authors show that while the severity of the country's "culture wars" is often overstated, significant fissures have opened. In Red and Blue Nation? leading journalists and scholars combine their different insights to enrich our understanding of the issue, offering thoughtful analyses of the underlying problems. This comprehensive and accessible discussion of the polarization debate will be an essential resource for policymakers, scholars, and anyone interested in the health of American public discourse. Contributors include Alan I. Abramowitz (Emory University), David W. Brady (Hoover Institution), Peter Beinart (The New Republic), Sarah A. Binder (Brookings Institution), James Campbell (State University of New York at Buffalo), Carl Cannon (National Journal), E.J. Dionne, Jr. (Brookings Institution), Gregg Easterbrook (Brookings Institution), Thomas B. Edsall (Washington Post), Morris P. Fiorina (Hoover Institution), William A. Galston (Brookings Institution), Hahrie C. Han (Wellesley College), Gary C. Jacobson (University of California, San Diego), Andrew Kohut (Pew Research Center for The People & The Press), Matthew Levendusky (Stanford University), Thomas E. Mann (Brookings Institution), Diana C. Mutz (University of Pennsylvania), Pietro S. Nivola (Brookings Institution), Tom Rosenstiel (Project for Excellence in Journalism), and Alan Wolfe (Boston College).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-6084-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Preface
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. 1 Delineating the Problem
    (pp. 1-48)
    William A. Galston and Pietro S. Nivola

    What do people mean when they say that politics in the United States are polarized? Polarized in what sense? How pervasively? How much more than in the past? For what reasons? Why should we care? And what, if anything, ought to be done about it? In the fall of 2005, the Governance Studies Program of the Brookings Institution, in collaboration with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, set out to explore such questions. This book is the first of two volumes resulting from our joint venture.

    It should be stressed at the outset that these volumes are not meant to...

  5. 2 Disconnected: The Political Class versus the People
    (pp. 49-118)
    Morris P. Fiorina and Matthew S. Levendusky

    During the last decade of the twentieth century, the belief that American political life had become highly polarized attained the status of conventional wisdom. At the 1992 Republican National Convention, candidate Pat Buchanan declared the outbreak of a culture war, “a war for the soul of America.” And in the midterm elections of 1994, the story line held that “angry white males”—upset with gays, gun control, immigration, affirmative action, and Hillary Clinton—put an end to more than forty years of Democratic Party dominance of the House of Representatives. Although the angry talk subsided a little in the following...

  6. 3 Polarization Then and Now: A Historical Perspective
    (pp. 119-174)
    David W. Brady and Hahrie C. Han

    In political media, in academic journals, and at cocktail parties across the country, members of the political infotainment community have been debating how polarized the country really is. Pundits and scholars alike assert the polarization of contemporary politics, portraying an ever widening chasm between Democrats and Republicans:

    When George W. Bush took office half the country cheered and the other half seethed.

    The red states get redder, the blue states get bluer, and the political map of the United States takes on the coloration of the Civil War.

    Politics in the United States can now be characterized as an ideologically...

  7. 4 Polarized by God? American Politics and the Religious Divide
    (pp. 175-222)
    E.J. Dionne Jr.

    Has religious commitment become the most important factor in determining the outcome of American elections? Can the bitter polarization so evident in so many aspects of our politics be explained by Pat Buchanan’s famous claim in his 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention that we are in the middle of both “a cultural war” and “a religious war”?

    If that’s true, politics is inevitably bitter because it becomes a battle over the most fundamental questions between individuals and groups who do not understand each other and, often, can’t stand each other. Have the traditional drivers of political choice—class,...

  8. 5 How the Mass Media Divide Us
    (pp. 223-262)
    Diana C. Mutz

    The chapters in this book suggest that scholars are nowhere near a consensus on whether the mass public is more polarized than it has been in the past and, if it is, relative to precisely when. Nonetheless, among those who believe the mass public has, indeed, become increasingly polarized in its views, mass media are very likely to be invoked as a cause. Perhaps this should come as no surprise—throughout American history, mass media have been blamed for just about every social ill that has befallen the country.

    But in the midst of so much disagreement about when and...

  9. 6 Polarizing the House of Representatives: How Much Does Gerrymandering Matter?
    (pp. 263-300)
    Thomas E. Mann

    Whatever the disputes about its historical uniqueness, reach, causes, consequences, and correctives, partisan polarization is undeniably a central feature of contemporary American politics. Political parties today are more internally unified and ideologically distinctive than they have been in many decades, perhaps a century. This pattern is most evident in Congress, state legislatures, and other bastions of elite politics, where the ideological divide is wide and relations between the parties often descend into a form of tribalism. But it also reaches into the arena of mass politics, as voters increasingly sort themselves by ideology into either the Democratic or Republican Party,...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 301-302)
  11. Index
    (pp. 303-318)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 319-319)