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America today is at a political impasse; we face a nation divided and discontented. Acclaimed political commentator E.J. Dionne argues that Americans can't agree on who we are as a nation because we can't agree on who we've been, or what it is, philosophically and spiritually, that makes us "Americans." Dionne places our current quarrels in the long-standing tradition of struggle between two core values: the love of individualism and our reverence for community. Both make us who we are, and to ignore either one is to distort our national character. He sees the current Tea Party as a representation of hyper-individualism, and takes on their agenda-serving distortions of history, from the Revolution to the Civil War and the constitutional role of government. Tea Partiers have reacted fiercely to President Obama, who seeks to restore a communitarian balance - a cause in American liberalism which Dionne traces through recent decades. The ability of the American system to self-correct may be one of its greatest assets, but we have been caught in cycles of over-correcting. Dionne seeks, through an understanding of our factious past, to rediscover the idea of true progress, and the confidence that it can be achieved.
E. J. Dionne Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a columnist for the Washington Post, and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University. He appears weekly on NPR and regularly on MSNBC and NBC's Meet the Press. His twice-weekly op-ed column is now syndicated in 140 newspapers. His writing has been published in the Atlantic, the New Republic, the American Prospect, the Washington Post Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, Commonweal, New Statesman, and elsewhere. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of numerous books, including the classic bestseller Why Americans Hate Politics, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was nominated for the National Book Award. His most recent book is Souled Out. Dionne lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with wife, Mary Boyle, and their three children.
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"[Dionne’s] extensive knowledge of Washington allows him to ably illustrate our remarkable political history, and he renews our hope that cooler heads can prevail with a renewed balance of individual rights and the needs of the community." —Kirkus Reviews"[A] much-needed fact-based review of the Constitution, a realistic portrait of its creators, and a balanced history of the ongoing friction in the American psyche between desires for liberty and commonwealth. The book clarifies much misinformation swirling around controversies about the founding fathers, the validity of originalism, and the traditional and historic roles of government and the free market in U.S. society. Tea Partiers and Occupiers alike may be surprised and enlightened by this lucid analysis, all the more convincing for its sympathetic treatment of both sides of the argument." —Publishers Weekly