American politics and voters are currently at the highest stage of polarization since the Civil War. As a result of the heightened state of the partisan divide, conflict between -- as well as within -- the branches of our government, including within the political parties themselves, has resulted in near gridlock on all but the most urgent of legislative issues. Meanwhile, the resolution of many policies on which there is broad public consensus -- from gun policy to entitlement reform to campaign finance reform to comprehensive immigration policy – remains seemingly gridlocked. Not surprisingly, public confidence in our political leaders and our political institutions remains at historically low levels.
The class will explore a multiplicity of explanations behind the emergence of our current divided society: the ramifications of civil rights movement and resulting changes in Southern politics; the rise of a newly competitive, conservative movement of the 1970s and 1980s; changes in the press, media and other forms of mass communications, including social media; the inadvertent results of efforts to reform political system including campaign finance, among other issues. And the class will explore credible steps we might take to restore a greater sense of comity, community and collaboration to our national politics.