The New American Civil War
Robert B. Reich
The vitriol is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarm of 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness.
It's almost a civil war. I know families in which close relatives are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won't even consider going out with Republicans, and vice versa. My email and Twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn't share with my granddaughter.
What's going on?
Yes, we're divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren't exactly new debates. We've been disagreeing over the size and role of government since
And we've had bigger disagreements in the past -- over the Vietnam War, civil rights, communist witch hunts -- that didn't rip us apart like this.
Maybe it's that we're more separated now, geographically and online.
The town where I grew up in the 1950s was a
But now most of us exist in our own political bubbles, left and right. I live in
So when Americans get upset about politics these days, we tend to stew in our own juices, without benefit of anyone we know well and with whom we disagree -- and this makes it almost impossible for us to understand the other side.
That geographic split also means more Americans are represented in
But I think the degree of venom we're experiencing has deeper roots.
The nation is becoming browner and blacker. Most children born in
In other words, white working-class men have been on the losing end of a huge demographic and economic shift. That's made them a tinderbox of frustration and anger, eagerly ignited by
That hate-mongering and attendant scapegoating -- of immigrants, blacks, gays, women seeking abortions, our government itself -- has legitimized some vitriol and scapegoating on the left as well. I detest what the Koch Brothers,
This degree of divisiveness would not have taken root had America preserved the social solidarity we had two generations ago. The Great Depression and World War II reminded us we were all in it together. We had to depend on each other in order to survive. That sense of mutual dependence transcended our disagreements. My father, a "Rockefeller Republican," strongly supported civil rights and voting rights,
To be sure, we endured 9/11, we've gone to war in
So we finish a bitter election feeling as if we're two nations rather than one.
The challenge, not only for our president and representatives in
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The New American Civil War | Politics
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