Stephen, thanks again for engaging. Of course, I’m well aware of your points and the history, but I wasn’t writing a book on postwar party politics but a short article on what is driving today’s polarization.

But to address your points, in order to get a handle on cause and effect we need to be precise about chronology. Religious communities isolated themselves from the secular after the Scopes trial in 1925 when they were ridiculed in the northern, urban, secular press. It was a natural defensive reaction.

The Warren court’s rulings on school prayer and bible reading pertained to public schools, not private. The problem is that many of these traditional religious enclaves were small and homogenous due to the antipathy of the secular community and in many cases their only school was a public school. So these communities were faced with a stark choice: give up needed school funding or abandon their religious teaching. We can see this was an unacceptable choice for them and thus an impetus for political mobilization. If we look at the history of religion in politics in America, we find that religious communities are mobilized only when attacked. Jefferson advocated separation of church and state and for the 1st Amendment to protect religious groups from the state, not vice-versa. Secularism is really an alternative belief system that defines the state and thus we should probably not use secularism to oppress religious groups in a free society, unless... yes, we have the law, and that is arrived at through the inherently conservative legislative process. Deferring complex cultural and social issues to the SCOTUS is an invitation to endless conflict.

To wit: Roe v. Wade is a just a misguided policy process for an issue that is highly divisive and not easily reconciled. Either we believe abortion is right or wrong, it’s difficult to compromise. So, it’s misguided not because of one’s view on pro-choice or pro-life, but because it mostly served to divide the country politically on an irreconcilable moral issue and has riven our national democratic politics for two generations. The victims have been natural liberal constituencies like the urban poor and the white working class who have had to defer to feminists in electoral priorities. The resulting losses in national elections drove the poor’s policy needs off the agenda. Not a laudable result.

To address the Southern strategy. This was preceded by LBJ’s Great Society programs and the shift to target urban minorities and away from Southern Democrats. LBJ admitted his policies would lose the South. Well, lose it to whom? Civil rights was strongly supported by both northern Republicans and Democrats, so it was a regional division over the legislation, not a partisan one. But LBJ’s minority focus was easily turned into an electoral priority to win national elections. This left Southern Democrats and the Strom Thurmond party without a national presence. In 1968 Nixon had two choices to win the election: try to out-pander Democrats in appealing to urban minorities with welfare policies, or seek to secure Southern Democrats. Naturally, he chose the latter, but that has been painted as racist ever since for partisan reasons. It’s a self-serving interpretation of American politics and persists to this day. This doesn’t excuse Republicans or Democrats, it just explains the events leading up to subsequent history.

Lastly, you assert to being a Georgian who has seen the light, and I was raised in NYC and have also seen the light. Neither is really relevant to political analysis and is the definition of subjective perspectives on history. What is far more relevant is that we are both social scientists and thus demand confirmation and consistency through empirical analysis. Thanks again…

Written by

I am currently a tech start-up founder in the creative media original content space. Social science academic and author.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store