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The United States as a Divided Nation

Past and Present


Marcin Grabowski, Krystof Kozák and György Tóth

Is the U.S. as a country still capable of finding common ground and effective policy responses in the 21st century, or are the dividing lines within U.S. society actually becoming too deep and too wide to bridge, with potentially grave consequences for American social, political as well as economic development? This book discusses important contemporary U.S. wedge issues such as gun rights, racial and economic inequality, the role of the state, the politics of culture, interpretations of history and collective memory, polarization in national politics, and factionalism in domestic and foreign policy. It provides readers with conceptual tools to grasp the complexity of the current processes, policy formation, and political and social change under way in the United States.
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Writing Divisions


If in a classic American Studies fashion we use the articles in this volume to unpack the larger and multiple contexts of the “dense fact” of the current political stalemate,1 the diagnosis is serious. As Michael R. Wolf, J. Cherie Strachan, and Daniel M. Shea have found, not only is the U.S. electorate divided on which specific policies would be desirable for the federal government to adopt and implement. Voters show little acceptance for governing by compromise even in the abstract. Combined with a knee-jerk psychology that blames one’s opponents for any impasse, this dynamic leads to intransigent voters electing intransigent candidates to political office.

Americans have become divided even about the earth’s climate. As Helena Schulzová shows, the issue of climate change has become a battleground in U.S. federal politics even as it receded on the voters’ agenda amidst the global recession. As a result of lobbying and partisan rhetoric, green policies have been recast as a squarely liberal Democratic agenda, and in the 2012 presidential election the topic of climate change was downplayed by one side and flippantly criticized by the other, serving as a wedge issue for federal politicians.

Moving out from the U.S. Congress in concentric circles, the ideological divisions of federal politics are echoed in the inequalities of U.S. education. It is common knowledge that inner city schools are often poor, dangerous, and underperform in learning and testing. As Radosław Rybkowski demonstrates, the distance between ← 307 | 308...

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