We talk a lot on this podcast about the epic levels of political polarization and how much of our ongoing breakdown they explain. But what was American politics like before it was polarized? And what got us from there to here?
Sam Rosenfeld is a political scientist at Colgate University and author of the book The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era. I’ve read a lot of books on polarization, and Rosenfeld’s is the best I’ve seen at painting a picture of what American politics looked like before Republican meant conservative and Democrat meant liberal, and why polarization seemed like a good, necessary thing to many of the people who drove it.
While you listen to this history, try to think about it not from the perspective of someone sitting in 2018, looking at a political system in crisis, but someone in 1955, observing a system that offered nothing but false and confusing choices. Would you have been on the side of the polarizers?
On Capitol Hill by Julian Zelizer
Making Minnesota Liberal by Jennifer Delton
Social Policy in the United States by Theda Skocpol