The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era

October 31, 2020
The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era

Even in this most partisan and dysfunctional of eras, we can allagree on one thing: Washington is broken. Politicians takeincreasingly inflexible and extreme positions, leading to gridlock,partisan warfare, and the sense that our seats of government arenothing but cesspools of hypocrisy, childishness, and waste. Theshocking reality, though, is that modern polarization was adeliberate project carried out by Democratic and Republicanactivists.In The Polarizers, Sam Rosenfeld details why bipartisanship wasseen as a problem in the postwar period and how polarization wasthen cast as the solution. Republicans and Democrats feared thatthey were becoming too similar, and that a mushy consensusimperiled their agendas and even American democracy itself. Thusbegan a deliberate move to match ideology with party label—with thetoxic results we now endure. Rosenfeld reveals the specificpoliticians, intellectuals, and operatives who worked together toheighten partisan discord, showing that our system today is not(solely) a product of gradual structural shifts but of deliberateactions motivated by specific agendas. Rosenfeld reveals that thestory of Washington’s transformation is both significantlyinstitutional and driven by grassroots influences on both the leftand the right.The Polarizers brilliantly challenges and overturns ourconventional narrative about partisanship, but perhaps mostimportantly, it points us toward a new consensus: if wedeliberately created today’s dysfunctional environment, we candeliberately change it.