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How We Deserted Common Ground Image Credit: TIME Magazine
How We Deserted Common Ground Image Credit: TIME Magazine

How We Deserted Common Ground

How We Deserted Common Ground

Nancy Gibbs

SPEND SOME TIME WITH POLLING conducted over the past six months and you could conclude that the U.S. is so deeply divided that our name is little more than wishful thinking.

The Pew Research Center found in October that across a range of issues—immigration, race, security, the environment—the partisan split is now greater than differences in age, race, gender and income. The center has all but vanished; in 1994, roughly half the country (49%) held an equal number of liberal and conservative positions. Now it’s less than a third. The number of Democrats and Republicans who see the opposing party as “very unfavorable” has more than doubled. And while we did not get here overnight, 7 in 10 Americans say that we have reached a dangerous new low point and are at least as divided as we were during the Vietnam War.

The first society in history to be forged more by thought and faith than threat and force seemed uniquely able to adapt to change. But we have entered a period of Category 5 disruption, with new challenges rising whose impact we just barely understand. What were once unifying institutions are declining—Rotary Clubs, churches, even malls. Unifying values, around speech and civility, freedom and fairness, are shredded by tribal furies. We have a President for whom division is not just a strategy but a skill. And we face enemies who are intent on dividing us further, weaponizing information and markets and new technolog


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