Book Review – The Second Civil War, How Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

Ronald Brownstein in this short, concise 2009 book has produced a complete and accurate account of the recent ugly, partisan side of politics. He provides a backdrop and history of some of the contributing factors and events which have led to this unfortunate era of United States political intrigue and competition – some of the most divisive since the Civil War.

Having been a high school teacher of Current World Problems and Political Science 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, House of Representatives Speaker, Republican, and it continues with the on-line ultra-leftists like The Daily Kos and, as well as the stance of Brownstein’s description as extreme Democrat leaders – those like Harry Reid and Howard Dean… those 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 which we have nine years since that time period. 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 former Governor George W. Bush, as governor of Texas and serving with a democrat majority in the state legislature, compromised and was well-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 very beneficial and informative book that contributes to the conversation – a conversation that will optimistically lead to another era of cooperation. Hopefully, that can solve the problems of the out-of-hand federal debt and budget deficits, the encroaching power of the federal government, as well as the stagnant economy and the creeping, under reported unemployment problem.