Winner Take Nothing

What Ails Our Politics

The Spirit of Compromise
Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson
Princeton University Press, $24.95, 256 pp.


Our Divided Political Heart
The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent
E. J. Dionne Jr.
Bloomsbury Press, $27, 336 pp.


What ails our politics? Polarization, incivility, and partisan squabbling are weakening our system’s ability to respond to major national crises. Not that this is new. Our political history is littered with stories of gridlock, bitter rhetoric, and seemingly intractable disagreements. Even so, recent events provide cause for concern: a congressman shouting “You lie!” during a presidential address, a 2009 bill proposing modest steps to address global warming that couldn’t get passed even though it was supported by the president and a clear majority in both houses of Congress, a once-routine debt-ceiling vote that threatened a devastating federal default. Why this, why now?

In The Spirit of...

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About the Author

David Carroll Cochran is professor of politics and director of the Archbishop Kucera Center for Catholic Intellectual and Spiritual Life at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.