A Not So 50:50 Nation
Culture Wars? The Myth of a Polarized America: Book Review
Political Science 102
May 11, 2014
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 nonsense, and exaggerations. There is no culture war according to Fiorina, no war for the soul of America. Describing the culture war as a myth caused by lack of information, misrepresentation of facts by activists, and selective media coverage. He suggests that Americans are essentially bystanders avoiding the cross fire between the left and right wing activists. Furthermore, he contrasts that it is the American choices that are polarized due to politicians, thus creating the appearance of a politically polarized society. Finally, he concludes the first chapter by outlining his argument in the following chapters. Fiorina does an exceptional job hooking the reader with his first chapter, the quotes and various examples of how America is portrayed as polarized are effective in swaying the audience to agree and then he shocks the reader by debunking all previous statements with his personal beliefs and outline for how he plans to prove his argument.
Next, Fiorina asks “If America is not polarized, why do so many Americans think it is?” Providing another powerful quote from Barack Obama’s speech in the Democratic National convention, he contrasts the introductory quote in chapter one to effectively portray the other side in chapter two. 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...