Past and Present
A House Divided: Will the American Tradition of “E Pluribus Unum” Prevail, or Will Fragmentation Undermine Democratic Governance?
Over the past several years, U.S. politics has become increasingly characterized by rude and aggressive behavior – with average citizens, political pundits and elected officials alike – indulging in behavior that many consider not only in-appropriate, but also undermining the ability to sustain democratic governance in a diverse, multicultural nation. The perception that American politics is experiencing an era of especially intense incivility, characterized by name-calling, hostility and purposeful intransigence, inevitably leads to concerns that citizens no longer have enough in common to pursue a shared agenda and that the American experiment in democratic governance may falter. Given the high levels of immigration and diversity, U.S. notions of citizenship have historically been grounded in a commitment to core democratic values rather than a common ethnic heritage. Hence Americans are especially sensitive to trends that fragment them into different, competing camps rather than unite them under an overarching banner. If the tactics currently characterizing U.S. politics truly indicate a rejection of respect for “legitimate opposition,” such concern is warranted. Indeed, this new, cut-throat style of politics may well be a warning sign that Americans from different political camps no longer share core values and are incapable of negotiating solutions to collective problems – in which case, their ability to facilitate effective democratic governance is indeed in jeopardy.
In politics, exceptionally rude behavior undermines any willingness to work together. Interactions characterized by challenges, name-calling, disagreements, and interruptions usually lead to entrenched positions rather than compromise. Indeed, these types of tactics may...
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