By virtually all measures, polarization in Congress has increased dramatically over the course of the past two decades. Former Democratic Congressman Tom Allen lived through this era, serving six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Drawing from his own experiences in the Congressional trenches, he tackles the root cause of why Democrats and Republicans arrived at a point where they barely speak to each other. In Dangerous Convictions, he shows that they now embrace fundamentally different worldviews that distill two central impulses in American history: individualism and the longing for community. He stresses throughout that while it takes two sides to polarize, one bears more blame for the divide than the other. Whereas the Democrats' emphasis on community is relatively open-ended and conditional, the Republicans' adherence to individualism has become more radical and rigid over time. In essence, Democrats are relatively pragmatic and willing to change their views if the evidence calls for it. Republicans, on the other hand, prioritize ideological goals above all else and regard facts that contradict their worldview as minor inconveniences whose importance pales in comparison to their long-term aims. The problem for the Democratic Party is that in America, the language of individualism is primary and the language of community secondary. Hence the Republican Party has a built-in rhetorical advantage. While journalists and academics have offered variations of this thesis before, Allen's deep knowledge of the political system's actual workings make Dangerous Convictions a powerfully original work on how and why Congress has become so dysfunctional.
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