America is a house divided. That is the central message of the book by David French, Divided We Fall. His book was selected by World magazine as its book of the year, and I had him on my radio program recently to talk about the polarization in America.
He believes it is time for us to understand that “the continued unity of the United States of America cannot be guaranteed.” He persuasively argues there is not a single “cultural, religious, political, or social force that is pulling Americans together more than it is pushing us apart.”
One reason for the division and polarization is geographical. More and more Americans are living in what have been called “landslide counties.” Those are counties in this country where one presidential candidate wins by at least twenty points. Back in 1980, there were about 400 of these landslide counties. Today there are more than three times as many.
Another factor is the phenomenon called “negative polarization.” What this means in the political sphere is that a person belongs to a political party not so much because they like their own party but because they fear the other party.
When he speaks, he often tells his audience that if they can remember one thing, it is the principle from an obscure academic paper by a University of Chicago law professor. The daunting title is “The Law of Group Polarization.” You can summarize it by simply saying, “When people of like mind gather, they tend to become more extreme.” When everyone in your group or in your tribe agrees with you, you become more convinced of your view and have less appreciation for the opposite view.
David French also provides solutions, but I think we must take the first step toward healing by recognizing that this country is truly a house divided.