We explore a recent Atlantic article focused on the political and demographic divide within the country to understand the importance of civility in today’s America.
How America Ends: A tectonic demographic shift is underway. Can the country hold together?
By Yoni Appelbaum
Yoni Appelbaum: Professor at Harvard University before becoming a writer for the Atlantic. Education included a Ph.D. in American History from Brandeis University and a B.A. from Columbia University. Has also written works about impeaching Donald Trump and how the idea is becoming more thought about https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/03/impeachment-trump/580468/.
Article Summary/Analysis: Yoni Applebaum presents a compelling and historically grounded argument, addressing the yawning divide between the major parties of Republicans and Democrats in the United States. He states that this divide has resulted in decreased distrust in American political institutions as well as the dehumanization of those within parties not contingent on their own. This divide has also resulted in the radicalization of some individuals on both sides of the political spectrum. Applebaum attributes this divide to factors such as the postindustrial economy and most prevalently the demographic shift of minorities becoming the majority. He mostly focuses on the Republican party and the rising fear of becoming obscured in this shift. These moves include the rise of a term he calls “Trumpism” and increasing desperation such as some Republicans returning to the practice of gerrymandering to combat this decrease in support that has been coming for years.
Applebaum brings in historical examples to explain that this is not the first time that this dividing fracture has occurred, and that desperation has been felt by other parties in the past. Parties such as the Federalists, Redemption-Era Democrats, and Progressive Republicans have, in the past, made moves to stifle the opinions of groups in fear that these votes would make them obsolete. Each of these parties had fallen prey to the fear of being crushed and pushed out by changes in American demographics and ideals. These acts of desperation resulted in the passing of something that goes against the idea of Democracy such as the Alien and Sedition Acts. Applebaum also included the example of the death throes of the antebellum South before the civil war, those who represented the South engaged in shocking engagements in incivility even going so far as physical attacks on their opponents. In each case of desperation driven pushes taking a step away from the core of democracy, democracy as Applebaum put it pushed back resulting in the retraction of acts published taking votes away from immigrant citizens. Applebaum cautions the Republican party from engaging in these acts against democracy and calls to action the center-right stating that the success of the party depends on their actions in the future.
Applebaum bases his ideology on history, a practice that makes his claims persuasive and clear. While his argument may not address all the nuance and factors that contribute to the current American political divide, he does a great job explaining why some people feel that parts of the Republican party have been falling away from its ideals. Applebaum’s examples also provide a lens for why political incivility is on the rise and that it is not a new phenomenon. He gives his readers a clear and logical explanation that is difficult to fully discount given his strong evidence.
We recommend this article because of what the article does for the reader. The reader is given an explanation as to why this divide has occurred in American politics and Applebaum does this clear and easy to follow, not packed in research-heavy language.