E.J. Dionne on America's 'Divided Political Heart'

June 14, 2012

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A glance at the latest approval ratings for the President, for the Congress and for the political parties highlights a deep divide and deep dissatisfaction with American politics these days.

It’s a divide manifested not just in poll numbers, but in cable news networks…Tea Partiers…Occupiers…and impassioned debates over everything from health care to collective bargaining rights.

So what's driving this current polarization?

In his new book, Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent, Washington Post columnist and NPR political commentator E.J. Dionne turns to history for some answers. And he points out that the common narrative surrounding limited government and individual liberties largely misreads a much more dynamic tension in American political life: It's a tension between individualism and communitarianism-- or, more colloquially, individual rights and community needs. 

This dynamic and these two traditions, he argues, have been present since the beginning of the republic and are even expressed within the Declaration of Independence, a document that asserts both individual liberties and the collective welfare.

We talk with Dionne about this and more on Thursday's Afternoon Shift.

Dionne will discuss and signs copies of his new book at the Harold Washington Library Center Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m.