America is more politically and culturally divided than it has been at any time since the Civil War. At least, that’s what many political scientists tell us, and I see no reason to argue. Polarization is a truly “wicked problem” as some say, meaning a problem that involves so many interconnected and entangled issues—politically, culturally, economically—that solving it seems near impossible.

But polarization won’t last forever. In its history, America has gone through periods of great polarization and other times of relative consensus. Today, as we face a dangerously divided nation, it’s important to consider the causes and consequences of the situation, and ask what, if anything, we can do about this great challenge of our generation. For this episode of Thinking Ahead, I speak to James Piereson, President of the William E Simon Foundation and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan institute. He is also the author of the book Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order.

Is a major economic or political crisis inevitable? Is the two-party system going to continue indefinitely? How soon might we expect a change in the political winds? What insights does America’s past offer about the tremendous challenges in our future? This episode explores the promise and peril of today’s politics in a deeply divided society. 


More about James Piereson

James Piereson is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and president and trustee of the William E. Simon Foundation. During 1985–2005, he was executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation. Previously, Piereson served on the political science faculties of Iowa State University, Indiana University, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught government and political thought. He serves on the boards of the Pinkerton Foundation, Thomas W. Smith Foundation, Center for Individual Rights, Philanthropy Roundtable (where he was chairman, 1995–99), Foundation for Cultural Review (as chairman), American Spectator Foundation, Hoover Institution, and DonorsTrust. Piereson is the author of Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism (2007), The Inequality Hoax (2014), and Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Postwar Political Order (2015).

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