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Radical partisanship among ordinary Americans is rising, and it poses grave risks for the prospects of American democracy.
Political violence is rising in the United States, with Republicans and Democrats divided along racial and ethnic lines that spurred massive bloodshed and democratic collapse earlier in the nation’s history. The January 6, 2021 insurrection and the partisan responses that ensued are a vivid illustration of how deep these currents run. How did American politics become so divided that we cannot agree on how to categorize an attack on our own Capitol?
For over four years, through a series of surveys and experiments, Nathan P. Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason have been studying radicalism among ordinary American partisans. In this groundbreaking book, they draw on new evidence—as well as insights from history, psychology, and political science—to put our present partisan fractiousness in context and to explain broad patterns of political and social change. Early chapters reveal the scope of the problem, who radical partisans are, and trends over time, while later chapters identify the conditions that partisans say justify violence and test how elections, political violence, and messages from leaders enflame or pacify radical views. Kalmoe and Mason find that ordinary partisanship is far more dangerous than pundits and scholars have recognized. However, these findings are not a forecast of inevitable doom; the current climate also brings opportunities to confront democratic threats head-on and to create a more inclusive politics. Timely and thought-provoking, Radical American Partisanship is vital reading for understanding our current political landscape.
About the Author
Nathan P. Kalmoe is associate professor of political communication in Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication and Department of Political Science. He is the author of With Ballots & Bullets: Partisanship & Violence in the American Civil War and co-author of Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the Mass Public.
Lilliana Mason is associate research professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University’s SNF Agora Institute and Department of Political Science. She is author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.
"The book makes an important contribution to the growing body of research on what may be becoming the most pressing issue in contemporary American politics: political polarization." — Choice
“Kalmoe and Mason’s impressive theoretical insights and evidence on the causes and consequences of radical partisanship make their book the definitive account of violent partisan hostilities in twenty-first-century American politics. With the profound implications of those outstanding analyses exposed for the whole world to see during the January 6 Capitol insurrection, Radical American Partisanship has the potential to be one of the most important political science books in decades.” — Michael Tesler, University of California, Irvine
“This provocative book by two of political science’s rising stars asks readers to consider what only recently would have seemed implausible. Is American democracy on the brink? Will the kind of political violence that most Americans connect to remote outposts in other parts of the world become a feature of our own deeply polarized political system? Readers will find themselves deeply unsettled by Kalmoe and Mason’s evidence and conclusions.” — Marc J. Hetherington, University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
“A disturbing analysis of special interest to policymakers.” — Kirkus