Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974

Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer. Norton, $28.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-393-08866-3
Coauthors Kruse (One Nation Under God) and Zelizer (The Fierce Urgency of Now), both Princeton history professors, examine American politics starting in 1974, a watershed year marked by Nixon’s resignation, through to the present. The bedrock of the text is a readable, well-paced history that depicts in chronological order major events of the four decades, including the AIDS epidemic, the Iran-Contra affair, the rise of the Tea Party, and the passage of the Affordable Care Act. This provides fodder for an analysis of tactics used, primarily by Republicans, to foment partisanship and division, exploiting preexisting social divides surrounding racial relations, gender roles, income inequality, and immigration that were stoked by political sideshows such as the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the impeachment of President Clinton, and the Supreme Court’s 5­–4 decision in Bush v. Gore. Kruse and Zelizer also identify other factors accelerating the country’s polarization, particularly the transformation in communications brought on by the internet and the growth of ultrapartisan media. They also argue that the tactics employed in win-at-all-costs politics have played an instrumental role in dividing the country. Their analysis is thoughtful and credible, but political partisans who have benefited from the divisive atmosphere will be unconvinced that much of what is covered is actually a problem. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2018
Release date: 01/08/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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