Synopses & Reviews
From one of America's most respected political commentators, an epic, shrewd, and important big-picture analysis of the forces that have made this era in American politics as divisive and bitterly partisan as any since the Civil War. 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 more than a generation. What has happened? In The Second Civil War, Ronald Brownstein brilliantly diagnoses the electoral, demographic, and institutional forces that have brought such change over the American political landscape, pulling politics to the margins and leaving precious little common ground for compromise. Displaying the deep 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 ofspecial-interest pressure groups to a vastly changed media environment that has become much more vicious and much less serious. While there was no Golden Age, and in many respects the increasing plurality of voices that 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 continue to fester ominously, unaddressed and growing more and more painful to face as we approach crisis situations. 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. The Second Civil War is not a book for Democrats or Republicans 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.
Brownstein knows what hes talking about.
Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
Allan Brinkley, The New York Times Book Review
[From] one of Americas best political journalists . . . a sparkling new book.
In recent years American politics has seemingly become much more partisan, more zero-sum, more vicious, and less able to confront the real problems our nation faces. What has happened?
In The Second Civil War, respected political commentator Ronald Brownstein diagnoses the electoral, demographic, and institutional forces that have wreaked such change over the American political landscape, pulling politics into the margins and leaving precious little common ground for compromise. The Second Civil War is not a book for Democrats or Republicans but for all Americans who are disturbed by our current political dysfunction and hungry for ways to understand it—and move beyond it.
About the Author
Ronald Brownstein is political director of Atlantic Media, publishers of the Atlantic, National Journal, and the Hotline, among other publications. He was national political correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He has been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of both the 1996 and 2004 presidential elections. The author or editor of five previous books, he appears regularly as an analyst for CNN and other television programs, such as Meet the Press and Charlie Rose.