The conservative activist defended our polarized politics in a conversation with presidential historian David Gergen and Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel.
The only thing Americans seems to agree on these days is that we can't agree on much. With a divided Congress, a 5-4 Supreme Court, and a president who has as much difficulty with his own party as the opposing one, it seems like a legitimate miracle when our government accomplishes anything. Presidential historian and former presidential adviser David Gergen says things have gotten so bad that "we're in danger of national decline" because we can't resolve any of our issues.
Maybe the question isn't "Why can't we all get along?" but "Did we ever?" Grover Norquist is reviled on the left for his anti-tax pledge that has bedeviled congressional revenue efforts for years, and he is often singled out as a leading cause of our current gridlocked condition. Yet Norquist says that people who recall a golden era of bipartisanship are merely revealing how old they are. The fights of yesteryear may not have been "partisan" -- since parties tended to form around regional alliances rather than ideology -- but they were still fights. Liberal Democrats teamed up with liberal Republicans to take on the conservative wings of their own party. It's only in the last 30 years that they have aligned under the same political banner.
Gergen and Norquist were both joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel (editor of the one of the most partisan magazines in the country, The Nation), at the New York Ideas conference, sponsored by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the New-York Historical Society. The title of their panel asked "Will a Divided House Come Back Together?" But judging by the debate the audience witnessed, the answer is not encouraging.