Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Recommendation

Do you want to know why Josh and I are at each others' throats all the time about politics?

Then you need to read Richard Brownstein's The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.

The book was released in late 2007, so it doesn't discuss the 2008 elections very much (only in a "what-if" sense). Brownstein is a former chief political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and, while most of the historical chapters are correct (I have a quibble with some of his ideas about the 1940s and 1950s), the chapters on ideological polarization since the 1960s and the conservative takeover of Congress in 1994 seem to be very persuasive.

He basically argues that the population has "sorted itself out" to where liberals and conservatives are easily identifiable and show similar cultural traits. In many cases, these people dominate their state, making most states non-competitive in the presidential elections. 2008 shot that out of the water, but it did so when a president ran on a "nonpartisan" platform of promising to end the mess in Washington. Of course, he didn't do that (and you can blame it on whichever party you want to, it really makes no difference for this argument) and if it doesn't change soon Brownstein's thesis will come back into play for 2010.

A really good book and a very clear description of the changes in American politics in the last 20 years.

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