Divided America: The Ferocious Power Struggle in American Politics

ISBN: 0743262069
ISBN 13: 9780743262064
By: Earl Black Merle Black

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About this book

"Divided America" tells the biggest story in American politics today. It's the story behind the emergence of a ferocious power struggle between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats that is tearing the country's politics apart.Drawing on extensive polling data and close analyses of presidential, senatorial, and congressional elections over the past fifty years, two eminent political scientists show, for the first time, how partisan warfare has reduced both major parties to minority status and locked them into fierce power struggles in each election cycle, thereby making America less stable and more difficult to govern.Because the two major parties are now evenly balanced in the national electorate, control of the White House and Congress can shift dramatically with each election. Neither Republicans nor Democrats operate with any "lock" on the presidency, House of Representatives, or Senate, as demonstrated by the 2006 congressional elections.Earl Black and Merle Black examine the party battles as they've played themselves out in the nation's five principal geographic areas. Each party has developed two important regional strongholds, as exemplified in the 2004 elections, when Republicans won all the electoral votes and sizable majorities of House and Senate seats in the South and Mountain/Plains states while the Democrats won almost all the electoral votes and large majorities in the Northeast and the Pacific Rim states. The Midwest is the perennial swing region.The authors describe the enormous changes that have occurred in the electorates of each region over the past fifty years -- with emphasis on how the size and partisan affiliations of key groups havechanged -- and show how these transformations have generated today's unstable two-party battles. Although the relentlessly competitive nature of modern American politics is generally appreciated, the regional causes underlying this new state of affairs are not well understood. Because neither Democrats nor Republicans can produce national majorities simply by sweeping their regional strongholds, they are locked in a fierce power struggle in each election. "Divided America" tells the story of these remarkable developments in clear, vigorous prose and provides a pragmatic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each party.For the foreseeable future, each party will be within striking distance of winning -- or losing -- political power in every national institution. Understanding the party battles in America's regions is vital to understanding how today's losers can become tomorrow's winners

Reader's Thoughts


Bad title, decent book, but not a lot new here. I like it when political scientists try to reach a broader audience, but there's a way to combine that with careful research. I have some serious questions about how they define region (ND and AZ in the same region.....seriously?), but it's still a good overview of current politics. These guys understand what's going on politically better than almost anyone else.


Authors had a great idea for a book on politics beyond the Reign of W, spending the past couple of years assiduously putting together a slew of statistics to back up their professional analysis of current American politics.Then Karl Rove's brilliant strategy imploded, and the electorate turned on the administration, pretty well across the board, though with some demographics more strongly than others. So ... it's tough to extrapolate the pre-implosion data (pre-2004) to 2008 and beyond.The book went to press after the 2006 elections, and the authors do mention the results in the Foreward. However, I'm deducting two stars: one because it reads like a college statistics thesis in large part, and another because the data is (to some extent, debateable how much) not relevant for the next political cycle.


Divided America reads a bit slowly, and only those with a passion for the subject will find it easy going. That being said, it is a very interesting read for anyone, no matter what his or her politics.

Tom Sulcer

The Black brothers, both professors of political science at different southern universities, have done an excellent job of describing one of America's current ills -- partisanship -- with excellent statistics and research.They have hit on a major flaw with American democracy and describe it accurately. Politics has become "ideologically charged" and point out that America's "unstable power politics generates relentlessly bitter conflicts over a huge range of domestic and foreign policies and motivates activists in both parties to compete fiercely all the time." I see the venom daily -- activists from both sides cutting at each other's throats without being able to compromise. They write: "the incessant personal attacks mean that especially thick skins are necessary for America's leading politicians." They're right.They map out partisanship: Democrats controlling the Pacific & Northeast, Republicans controlling the South and Mountain states, with the midwest up for grabs. That partisan forces are evenly balanced means "ferocious competition" as they rightly point out, leading to a "permanently competitive situation." This doesn't bode well for the future of American democracy, which requires tolerance and compromise to function effectively.What the authors fail to see, however, is the more dangerous, underlying, looming problem with America, of which partisanship is merely a symptom. It is this: the political process is broken. Washington is corrupt. Congress is gridlocked. There's a dangerous concentration of power in the executive branch in one person -- the president -- and the usual system of checks and balances seems to have come undone. The federal system is askew -- ideally state governments should regulate their own economies, but Washington has usurped this power through numerous rulings, often encouraged by the Supreme Court. And this body of unelected justices has, in many respects, assumed a quasi-legislative role, which was never intended by the Constitution's Framers, because it has the power to strike down any law it deems unconstitutional. Washington is like a giant crashed computer, unresponsive to keystrokes, and unable to cope with serious issues such as Social Security underfunding, the specter of terrorism, financial meltdowns, global warming, corruption, lobbying running rampant, and so on.Americans should read not only this book, but "The American Lie" by Benjamin Ginsberg; "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution" by Kevin R. C. Gutzman; "Common Sense II: How to Prevent the Three Types of Terrorism" by me; "Up To Our Eyeballs" by several authors; "Our Undemocratic Constitution" by Sanford Levinson; "How America Got It Right" by Bevin Alexander (a tough critique of American foreign policy). Generally, these are tough, non-partisan looks at a nation in deep denial. I think the problems are so dangerous that a Second Constitutional Convention is required to fix them, so I have summoned this body, using my authority as a private citizen, and it will convene in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, beginning July 4th, 2009.This book is one part of a big puzzle, but Americans are urged to keep reading.


Divides US into 5 pieces. Two (south and mountain) republican strongholds, 2 democrat (northeast and pacific), and midwest (up for grabs). Describes changes in party alignments over the last 50 some years and predicts next few elections.Many, many charts and graphs. If you don't want all the details, don't read this book by 2 academic poli scis. If you want to know why American politics is so screwed up, you can find out here...

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