Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent

Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent

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by E. J. Dionne
     
 

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America today is at a political impasse; we face a nation divided and discontented. Acclaimed political commentator E.J. Dionne argues that Americans cant agree on who we are as a nation because we cant agree on who weve been, or what it is, philosophically and spiritually, that makes us "Americans."
Dionne places our current quarrels in the long-standing

Overview

America today is at a political impasse; we face a nation divided and discontented. Acclaimed political commentator E.J. Dionne argues that Americans cant agree on who we are as a nation because we cant agree on who weve been, or what it is, philosophically and spiritually, that makes us "Americans."
Dionne places our current quarrels in the long-standing tradition of struggle between two core values: the love of individualism and our reverence for community. Both make us who we are, and to ignore either one is to distort our national character. He sees the current Tea Party as a representation of hyper-individualism, and takes on their agenda-serving distortions of history, from the Revolution to the Civil War and the constitutional role of government. Tea Partiers have reacted fiercely to President Obama, who seeks to restore a communitarian balance - a cause in American liberalism which Dionne traces through recent decades.
The ability of the American system to self-correct may be one of its greatest assets, but we have been caught in cycles of over-correcting. Dionne seeks, through an understanding of our factious past, to rediscover the idea of true progress, and the confidence that it can be achieved.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dionne (Why Americans Hate Politics)—Washington Post columnist, NPR commentator, and Georgetown University professor—puts on his scholarly hat to offer a much-needed fact-based review of the Constitution, a realistic portrait of its creators, and a balanced history of the ongoing friction in the American psyche between desires for liberty and commonwealth. He suggests that America has nurtured “communitarian individualists—and individualistic communitarians,” and that “we often treat the Founders of our country not as the gifted statesmen and politicians they are, but as religious prophets.” By accepting commitments to individualism and community, he argues, we can see government as a constructive force, an approach “far more consistent with the Founders’ intentions and the broad trajectory of our history than are the alternatives promoted by the Tea Party and its allies that cast government as inherently oppressive, necessarily wasteful, and... damaging to... growth and prosperity.” The book clarifies much misinformation swirling around controversies about the founding fathers, the validity of originalism, and the traditional and historic roles of government and the free market in U.S. society. Despite its sometimes academic tone, Tea Partiers and Occupiers alike may be surprised and enlightened by this lucid analysis, all the more convincing for its sympathetic treatment of both sides of the argument. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
The days of political camaraderie are over, writes Washington Post columnist Dionne (Foundations of Democracy and Culture/Georgetown Univ.; Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics after the Religious Right, 2008, etc.), who nonetheless offers some possible correctives to the current poisonous political climate. The clash between Republicans and Democrats, writes the author, has devolved into the struggle of individualism versus community, local versus national and the Right versus the Middle. Philosophical boundaries are tilted, and moderates are now often painted as left wing. Rampant historical revisionism divides us. Dionne decries interpretations of the Founding Fathers' intentions by the courts as well as politicians; originalists have little basis to claim definite knowledge of the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. Knowing that the Constitution was a work in progress that would grow and adapt to the times, they continued to argue, balance and compromise. Hamilton, Clay, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt used republican nationalism to better the American community. The communitarian reforms of the New Deal established the idealistic American Century. Now the resurgence of radical individualism threatens to dissolve those reforms. Populist methods are the favored tool to promote individualistic objectives and attack the elites, especially Wall Street. However, it is not so much that the wealthy have too much; it's that they have failed in their stewardship of our economy. The men who founded our country were elites and elitist. The difference is that those founders knew that they also had a social obligation to provide for the common good. Dionne condemns the current partisanship as destructive and demands the return to moderation, balance and compromise. The author's extensive knowledge of Washington allows him to ably illustrate our remarkable political history, and he renews our hope that cooler heads can prevail with a renewed balance of individual rights and the needs of the community.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608194407
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
05/22/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
484,756
File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Washington Post, and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University. He graduated from Harvard, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and began his career as a reporter at the New York Times. His op-ed column is now syndicated in 141 newspapers. He appears weekly on NPR and twice-weekly on MSNBC, and is a regular contributor to NBCs Meet the Press. His writing has been published in the Atlantic, the New Republic, the American Prospect, the Washington Post Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Why Americans Hate Politics, which won the Los Angeles Times book prize and was nominated for the National Book Award; as well as They Only Look Dead; Stand Up Fight Back; and, most recently, Souled Out. Dionne lives in Bethesda, Maryland with wife Mary Boyle and their three children.


E. J. Dionne Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Washington Post, and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University. He appears weekly on NPR and regularly on MSNBC and NBCs Meet the Press. His twice-weekly op-ed column is now syndicated in 140 newspapers. His writing has been published in the Atlantic, the New Republic, the American Prospect, the Washington Post Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Commonweal, New Statesman, and elsewhere. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of numerous books, including the classic bestseller Why Americans Hate Politics, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was nominated for the National Book Award. His most recent book is Souled Out. Dionne lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with wife, Mary Boyle, and their three children.

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Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
peconicgp More than 1 year ago
Because we live in such a polarizing political landscape that constantly evokes our nation’s history as a precedent for whatever message is being delivered I believe a historical context for what government is to us and the role we want it to play in our society is essential in our ability to digest what we are being sold and determine what we really believe in. I believe that. That is why I bought this book yesterday and finished it today. To understand who we are and where we are going we must understand where we have been. I recommend this book to anyone who believes that as well. While it is a little wordy and generally critical of specifically the Tea Party movement (in the context that they evoke our Constitution for their founding principles of weakening our government) E. J. Dionne provides plenty of praise for both Republicans and Democrats as well as a critical tone for those who forget that the perhaps the key American strength we possess is compromise. The duality of what it means to be an American is that we all in our core contain both Republican and Democrat ideals and we resort to extremism at our peril. Seems to me the missing argument in our political landscape is not the case for the absolute left or the absolute right but in fact it is the case for the middle. It is that political middle ground that has fostered the greatest nation in the world and created a government of the people for the people that will mature with the people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An insightful and detailed look at our extremely divided nation. Almost frightening in its honesty about the two sides of our political climate and how far apart they are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago