The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

by Ronald Brownstein

Hardcover, 2007




New York : Penguin Press, 2007.


"Few don't appreciate that in recent years American politics has seemingly become much more partisan, more zero-sum, more vicious, more willing to make mountains out of molehills, and less able to confront the mountains of real problems we face. And yet, in poll after poll, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as either "very conservative" or "very liberal" hasn't budged in over a generation. What has happened? In The Second Civil War, Ronald Brownstein diagnoses the electoral, demographic, and institutional forces that have wreaked such change over the American political landscape, pulling politics to the margins and leaving precious little common ground for compromise." "Displaying the historical perspective for which he is noted, Brownstein begins with a history of the evolving climate for partisanship since the dawn of the modern political era in 1896, presenting a fresh and bold reinterpretation of American politics and the personalities who have shaped it, from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush." "Offering both sweeping analysis and intimate detail drawn from exclusive interviews with top officials and strategists in both parties, The Second Civil War captures the currents that have carried America to today's dangerous impasse, from little understood changes in congressional rules that made it easier for parties to enforce discipline and discourage compromise to the rise of special interest pressure groups to a vastly changed media environment, which has become much more vicious and much less serious." "While there was no Golden Age, and in many respects the increasing plurality of voices who get to have a say in our politics is all to the good, the net-net is a system in which compromise and conciliation are thwarted at almost every turn, and big problems that require broad consensus, like global warming, health care, and the great entitlement programs, continue to fester ominously, unaddressed and growing more and more painful to face when the time of crisis does come, as come it will. But Ronald Brownstein ends with a menu of clear and compelling ways out of our collective dilemma, largely centering on the opportunity for unifying leadership that can carve a compelling space for itself in the jungle of American party politics. The Second Civil War is not a book for Democrats or Republican per se but for all Americans who are disturbed by our current political dysfunction and hungry for ways to understand it - and move beyond it."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Qshio
If nothing else, a really good primer on the modern history of political dealmaking, and a good diagnosis of what ails American politics today. His solutions in the last chapter are less than striking, fairly hedged and not as "bold" as he makes out, but on the whole, a worthwhile read.

Local notes

Morton Kondrake's copy with his notes and marginalia


Page: 0.2106 seconds