A close friend of mine for whom I have a great deal of respect astutely questioned my premise of a divided nation citing several relevant historical data points. (“Are labor protections worse today than in 1890? … As a nation, we’re certainly less divided than in 1862.”) Nothing is more divisive to a nation than a civil war; certainly we are less divided than in 1862. But can social progress coexist with social division?
Civil wars are a ludicrously absurd method for resolving ideological disputes: ideas are judged not on merit but rather on might ending with the suppression of ideas rather than resolution. I do not find it surprising that based on the 48 values questions Pew has been using for the past 25 years, the partisan gap has doubled. Nor do I find it surprising that a growing number of voters do not identify with either party, and support LGBTQ civil rights.
That said, perhaps we can agree that America is a country of paradoxes; a nation both politically divided, and capable of social evolution; a nation with a legal system that can both clear Officer Darion Wilson of any wrongdoing whatsoever in the killing of Michael Brown, and find “widespread civil rights abuses by the Ferguson Police Department.