Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: Our Divided Political Heart by E.J. Dionne

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (May 22, 2012)
E.J. Dionne is at his best with this book.  In 279 pages, the columnist takes a long look at what has happened to both liberalism and conservatism since the country was founded.  Like several books out this election season, it's a must-read and a real eye-opener.  It's brilliant, in my opinion, and he breaks down exactly what has happened through thoughtful analysis.

What E.J. argues in the book is "underlying our political impasse is a lose sense of national balance that in turn reflects a loss of historical memory."  He shows how the political atmosphere is being poisoned.

America is a "nation of individualists who care passionately about community."  America is not a nation of radical individualists.  It's shown through which parties have shown a communitarian approach to their politics.

E.J. takes us on a rousing trip through history from the Founding Fathers to Henry Clay to Abraham Lincoln and both Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Dionne looks at Populists, the Progressives, and the New Dealers.

E.J., in this book, challenges the Tea Party movement's views by looking back at American history.  It's fascinating to read his argument.  There's a myth that Americans have been "one-sided individualists."  Dionne disproves that idea.  Dionne believes that we can end this divisive era by "rediscovering the balance between our core values."

It's fascinating to see just how far the Republican Party and conservative movement have gone to the right in recent years.  The following excerpt comes from page 248 of the text:
What needs to be recognized is how far Republicanism and conservatism have strayed from their own history and their own past commitments. They have chosen--on principle, it could be said--to make middle-ground politics impossible. They have done so by jettisoning their own communitarian commitments, by adopting a highly restrictive view of the federal government's role, and by advancing (in the Supreme Court no less on the campaign trail) a view of the Constitution that would prohibit or restrict activities that the federal government has undertaken for a century or more. In the process, they have chosen to rewrite the American story and unsettle the American balance.
I think, when all is said and done, we will be seeing the rise of a strong third party that covers the center.  There's really no room for moderates in the Republican Party and this book shows that.

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