Ross Douthat is one of the best conservative, religious columnist out there. He likes big words (see the excerpts below), but this is a solid look at three books that propose three theories on why there is so much division in America.
This month has brought a surfeit of interesting new books about American politics, most of them attempts to explain exactly how we reached our current era of gridlock and demagogy, in which disliked establishments and disreputable populists clash by night.
This task means that they are necessarily studies in polarization, in the roots of partisan hatred and ideological mistrust. And it means they usefully be read together, and against one another, to try to get a holistic sense of the forces tearing us apart.
I’m going to do that with three of them in this column.
Lind is somewhat too polemical in his treatment of neoliberalism, too dismissive of the reasons for Reagan-to-Obama economic choices and the constraints that post-1970s policymakers faced, just as Caldwell is too polemical in his treatment of racial liberalism and Klein is too polemical in his treatment of conservatism. But the beauty of reading several too-polemical accounts together is that you end up with a capacious-feeling portrait of the whole. From Klein you can take the truth that politics tends naturally to polarize and that racial divisions and racism make that polarization worse; from Caldwell the truth that our polarization follows ideological fault lines, not just tribal ones; from Lind the reality that culture war looks indistinguishable from class war the deeper our polarization gets.
Read the rest of the article here. (Medium-length, but challenging to read.)