American Decline

It Took Decades for America to Become This Divided

By  Alan Greenblatt Governing

Political polarization has become so familiar and entrenched that we barely think how it came about. The backstory is more than a half-century long, involving race, media and a diverging economy.

The outcome in Tuesday’s Senate runoffs in Georgia may end up being close, but voting among various subgroups won’t be. As was the case in November, there will be stark splits along racial, gender and geographic lines. College-educated residents of Atlanta and its major suburbs will vote in clear contrast to the results in rural areas.

By now, this is such a familiar scenario that it almost doesn’t seem worth commenting on. But these divides – and the way they add up to near-even splits in some states and at the national level – are the main driving forces of contemporary politics.

Throughout this century so far, America has been a “49 percent nation.” Both parties enjoy support that is tantalizingly close to a majority, but never congeals into stable control for long. The fact that victory always seems near at hand for the other side helps explain the vicious politics of our time.


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