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The Roots of Our Partisan Divide

by Tony M.

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.

American society today is divided by party and by ideology in a way it has perhaps not been since the Civil War. I have just published a book that, among other things, suggests why this is. It is called The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties. It runs from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the election of Donald J. Trump. You can get a good idea of the drift of the narrative from its chapter titles: 1963, Race, Sex, War, Debt, Diversity, Winners, and Losers.

I can end part of the suspense right now—Democrats are the winners. Their party won the 1960s—they gained money, power, and prestige. The GOP is the party of the people who lost those things.

So starts one of the best articles I have seen so far on the divisions in America since the 60's, an article by Christopher Caldwell, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute. It's remarkable for quite a number of things, particularly the vision necessary in identifying the divisions and their causes. The article appears as the banner article (for now) on the Imprimis site by Hillsdale College.

The central point of the article is introduced by this:

But it is a third strand of the story, running all the way down to our day, that is most important for explaining our partisan polarization. It concerns how the civil rights laws of the 1960s, and particularly the Civil Rights Act of 1964, divided the country. They did so by giving birth to what was, in effect, a second constitution, which would eventually cause Americans to peel off into two different and incompatible constitutional cultures. This became obvious only over time. It happened so slowly that many people did not notice.

Does Caldwell realize he is upsetting many apple carts? You bet:

Because conventional wisdom today holds that the Civil Rights Act brought the country together, my book’s suggestion that it pulled the country apart has been met with outrage.

Or perhaps it might be that he has qualms about having cast pearls before swine?

The outrage has been especially pronounced among those who have not read the book.

Swine are notoriously not interested in reading books.

In any case, you should the whole article, The Roots of Our Partisan Divide. Definitely worth the time.

I haven't read the book (yet), but it is my suspicion that Caldwell toned down the conclusion in the article from something more definite and, well, conclusive, than as it appears in the book.

Comments (5)

I just got the article in the mail a day or two ago and have not read it yet, but I have read Caldwell's book -- it's brilliant. His contention about civil rights is not that segregation and Jim Crow didn't need to end, but that how they were ended was inherently problematic. Of course in a society where ends are often seen to justify means such a declaration is anathema. Add to this the inability of current liberalism to demonstrate any level of self-critique, and you end up with ideas like Caldwell's being considered heresies of the first order.

Recommendation: read Caldwell's book in tandem with Douglas Murray's The Madness of Crowds. Much will be revealed, but maybe wait till after Lent: there's a lot in Murray to make the blood boil.

Thanks, Nice. Good to know Caldwell's book-length treatment stands up to consideration.

In the interests of stimulating a vigorous debate, are there any theses that you would like to dispute? Question? Take apart for further analysis?

Hoping to read the Imprimis piece tonight -- that may prompt something. I recall having minor quibbles here and there while reading the book but nothing that really gave me a great amount of pause.

It used to be taught in school in the USA that Democracy is fragile. It did seem to me that later people kept on trying to attack everything about the USA and thought that all their i-phones had nothing to do with how America was

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have now successfully expanded the definition of what is covered/protected under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include being homosexual or transgendered.

Associate Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts did this despite the fact that Congress never defined sexual discrimination to include sexual orientation discrimination. Congress was not allowed to work its will in this matter. 15 June 2020 is a day that will live in infamy.

Justice Gorsuch has proven Caldwell's thesis, that the 1964 Civil Rights Act effectively gave birth to a second and illegitimate constitution.

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