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Books in Brief

Polarized: Making Sense of a Divided America, by James E. Campbell (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 313 pp., $29.95).  This book is probably too academic to suit the taste of the general reader.  It is, however, eminently sensible and notably well written for an academic text.  Campbell argues that the polarization of American politics began in the late 1960’s as Americans began to grow less centrist minded, and that the polarization of the political parties followed from this fact, rather than being the cause of it.  “There are more liberals [since then] and even more conservatives.”  Party realignment was the result of the reconfiguration of the two main American parties in ways that reflected the increased polarization of the electorate (not gerrymandering, activism, the media, etc.).  When the Democratic Party ceased to be divided against itself (Southern conservatives versus Northern liberals), polarization between it and the GOP became “symmetrical.”  Further, “the crucial median voter of the electorate in any election is not a fixed point.  The position of the electorate’s median voter moves with the size and turnout of each party’s non-centrist base.”  Consequently, the benefit of a large noncentrist vote is necessary to the electoral victory of either party.  Campbell is not among those who deplore...

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