A Not So 50:50 Nation
Culture Wars? The Myth of a Polarized America: Book Review
The book Culture Wars? The Myth of a Polarized America by Morris P. Fiorina, Samuel J. Abrams, and Jeremy C. Pope is a persuasive text regarding America and its division on political topics.
In chapter one, Fiorina begins with a powerful quote from Pat Buchanan’s 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention, “There is a religious war…a cultural war as critical to the…nation…as the cold war…for this war is for the soul of America” (Fiorina et al. 1). Using several other quotes, he illustrates the belief that the nation is torn between personal morals and extreme conservative notions. He then states his belief that these sentiments are complete
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Myths develop from misinterpreted facts or information until many believe they are real (12). Fiorina then describes four contributing factors to the myth or a polarized America. Confusing closely divided with deeply divided is the first factor. Fiorina uses the example of a quote from the Economist referring to a 50:50 nation which developed from the unusually close presidential elections since 1996. Using bell graphs, the author demonstrates the difference between closely and deeply divided; which are complete opposites. In the closely and deeply divided scenario, voters are polarized, but in the closely but not deeply divided scenario, voters are indifferent (14). He equates this to perception of a person who says they are on the fence about a candidate, interpreting it as three possible options. Either the individual likes or dislikes the candidates equally, or may not care altogether, however, it is not assumed that the individual is polarized. While election outcomes are unable to confirm polarization, it is public opinion that can define whether a country is polarized or impartial. Political Activists are not normal people; this Fiorina’s second contributing factor to the polarization myth. Since the majority of the public is not a part of the political class these people are not typical representatives of the public and