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The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America Hardcover – November 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With this intelligent and expansive book, Los Angeles Times political correspondent and columnist Brownstein dissects the hyperpartisanship that he believes has unnecessarily inflamed our differences and impeded progress against our most pressing challenges. The first half of the book examines the roots of this hyperpartisanship, beginning with the 1896 election of William McKinley, which the author argues ushered in four decades of fierce partisan division. The 1938 resurgence of the Republican Party marked the start of the age of bargaining, with presidents and legislators crossing party lines to govern through consensus. The author believes both parties became more ideologically consistent during the 1960s, resulting in a sorting out of the electorate that eventually led to today's partisan divisiveness. This thorough history lays the groundwork for Brownstein's incisive analysis of the contemporary Republican and Democratic parties. He resists blaming any one party or president for the state of contemporary American politics, instead attributing partisan divisions to interest groups, changes in congressional rules and practices and the realignment of the parties and electorate. This sophisticated though lengthy book lays out a complex history with lucid precision, painting a damning portrait of contemporary politics that's sure to provoke and captivate readers interested in American politics and history. (Nov. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Hooray! A clarion call for common sense. This is an important, timely, and fascinating book. Ron Brownstein describes how American politics became so polarized and partisan, explains why this is so damaging to our nation, and suggests ways we can reverse this trend. Every voter should read it right away, for the sake of our democracy. (Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute) "For over a decade now, "Los Angeles Times" reporter Ron Brownstein has set the pace for smart, cutting-edge, political journalism. Now, in "The Second Civil War," he delivers a sobering analysis about how shrill hyper-partisan bickering has hijacked public policy. This is a truly important Centrist Manifesto which deserves a wide audience. With all the hatred going on, this fair-minded book is a lonely bugle call from the Washington Battlefield." -Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of "The Great Deluge,"

"This is a masterful work - a unique blending of first-rate historical writing with penetrating contemporary analysis, which, taken together, provide fresh perspectives on how we might move beyond the partisan divisions that plague us." -Doris Kearns Goodwin Hooray! A clarion call for common sense. This is an important, timely, and fascinating book. Ron Brownstein describes how American politics became so polarized and partisan, explains why this is so damaging to our nation, and suggests ways we can reverse this trend. Every voter should read it right away, for the sake of our democracy. (Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute) "For over a decade now, "Los Angeles Times" reporter Ron Brownstein has set the pace for smart, cutting-edge, political journalism. Now, in "The Second Civil War," he delivers a sobering analysis about how shrill hyper-partisan bickering has hijacked public policy. This is a truly important Centrist Manifesto which deserves a wide audience. With all the hatred going on, this fair-minded book is a lonely bugle call from the Washington Battlefield." -Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of "The Great Deluge,"

"In this vital, deeply-felt and well-argued book, a superb journalist combines his unexcelled knowledge of current-day American politics with his strong sense of history to show us how our system has degenerated - and how we might climb out of the mess." -Michael Beschloss "This is a masterful work - a unique blending of first-rate historical writing with penetrating contemporary analysis, which, taken together, provide fresh perspectives on how we might move beyond the partisan divisions that plague us." -Doris Kearns Goodwin Hooray! A clarion call for common sense. This is an important, timely, and fascinating book. Ron Brownstein describes how American politics became so polarized and partisan, explains why this is so damaging to our nation, and suggests ways we can reverse this trend. Every voter should read it right away, for the sake of our democracy. (Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute) "For over a decade now, "Los Angeles Times" reporter Ron Brownstein has set the pace for smart, cutting-edge, political journalism. Now, in "The Second Civil War," he delivers a sobering analysis about how shrill hyper-partisan bickering has hijacked public policy. This is a truly important Centrist Manifesto which deserves a wide audience. With all the hatred going on, this fair-minded book is a lonely bugle call from the Washington Battlefield." -Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of "The Great Deluge,"

a Brownstein knows what heas talking about.a
aJonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
aProvocative.a
aAllan Brinkley, "The New York Times Book Review"
a [From] one of Americaas best political journalists . . . a sparkling new book.a
a"The Economist"

Brownstein knows what he s talking about.
Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"
Provocative.
Allan Brinkley, "The New York Times Book Review"
[From] one of America s best political journalists . . . a sparkling new book.
"The Economist"

? Brownstein knows what he's talking about.?
?Jonathan Yardley, "The Washington Post"

?Provocative.?
?Allan Brinkley, "The New York Times Book Review"
? [From] one of America's best political journalists . . . a sparkling new book.?
?"The Economist"

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1St Edition edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594201390
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201394
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Brownstein has produced a complete and accurate account of the ugly, partisan side of politics. Having been a high school teacher of Current World Problems during the 1980s-2000, I can attest to the accuracy of the events of the time period. This book starts with the highly partisan retirement speech of Tom Delay and continues with the on-line ultra-leftists like The Daily Kos and MoveOn.org, as well as extreme Democrat leaders like Harry Reid and Howard Dean - blamed for the escalation of the "scorched earth", highly partisan politics of our current day. Also, in this account, the author thoroughly covers the time period leading up to the early 2000s.

The problems cited by the author in 2007 are the same problems we have nine years hence. Without compromise, there can be no agreement or resolution of those problems, or even an agreement of what the problems are, or whether it's the job of an ever-growing federal bureaucracy to correct those perceived problems. One intriguing section points out that George W. Bush, as governor of Texas and serving with a democrat majority in the state legisture, compromised and was known as "a uniter, not a divider". Brownstein went on to point out Bush's attempts to duplicate that result, but to no avail. The Democrat leaders would have none of that compromise or even cooperation at the federal level. Brownstein compares this lack of cooperation and the pursuit of extreme partisan politics to the divisions over slavery - hence, the comparison to the Civil War. I wonder what the author thinks about the purely partisan passage of the so-called "Affordable Care Act".

This is a book that contributes to the conversation - a conversation that will optimistically lead to another era of cooperation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ronald Brownstein's new book, "The Second Civil War", offers up much to be digested in history, calculation, process and outlook. The author, a distinguished contributor to the national political scene, has studied American politics from McKinley to Bush. We seem to be right back where we started from, with a mid-twentieth century romp through bipartisanhip.

Brownstein's book is a fair comparison of how the country felt and voted at any given time since 1896. The era from McKinley to Hoover more or less matched the hyperpartisanship of today, while FDR's time through the 1980s allowed for compromise and historic legislation. While this is a comprehensive work of age-old politics, it's really more about the last fifteen years....the era of Clinton and "W". This is the part of "The Second Civil War" where Brownstein makes his mark and it's clear he has some distinct opinions. The Gingrich crowd, never a particularly likeable American flavor favorite, began the ball rolling in earnest toward a "take-no-prisoners" approach to Congress, heightened only by the intense partisanship of the Bush presidency. In so many words, Brownstein points out that because of this, we've lost more than we've gained and it will take years of rebuilding to set things straight. He's right, of course, and I kept wondering while reading this book if we've really hit the political nadir just yet in America.

I highly recommend "The Second Civil War" for its insight and depth. Ronald Brownstein has done a remarkable job in putting this book together and it should be read by all who have a serious interest in American politics and those who care about where this country might be headed in that regard.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ron Brownstein does a masterful job of describing the nature of partisanship and bipartisanship in the US Congress from 1896 to the present. He describes the situations and attitudes that led to the extreme partisanship from 1896 to 1932. He consistently lauds bipartisanship in the making of public policy but he also describes the splits in the majopr parties that made bipartisanship both possible and necessary. I disagree with his present analysis of the need for, and desirability of, bipartisanship today. Nonetheless he does a masterful job of describing the present basis for the present extreme partisanship which he decries. His recommendations for a more bipartisan approach to policy making makes a lot of sense. I just think that the country is moving more to a realignment than he thinks. I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the present, unhealthy gridlock read this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
It's wrenching to read this authentic account of accelerating gridlock in American politics and realize that Brownstein's definitive work was written back in 2007 . . . before the right and left collided even more violently in the Age of Obama. What is so tough to absorb is how resolutely FIXED and entrenched our current state of polarization is - with one political party blindly refusing to participate in fixing immigration reform even though failure to do so spells their own demise. I wish all leaders could grasp two points: first, how America cannot simply claim and demand its global leadership role by divine fiat - it must be earned day by day, year by year, by people of goodwill working together in a spirit of competitive camaraderie to get things done . . . with an eye on the eternal reality that half a loaf is always better than none. Second, most of our big problems absolutely cannot be resolved by just one side working alone pushing the boulder up a hill. Unless Congress abandons ideas like filibustering and the "majority rule Hastert Doctrine," we can do little more than stagnate. The last twenty pages alone make this book worth reading, where Brownstein offers sage counsel to the next President who may come along.
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