Introduction: Exorcising America’s Demons, Building Ethical Democracy

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Date
2015
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University of Chicago Press
Abstract
Three demons bedevil American society today. The fi rst is obvious: We suffer levels of economic inequality not witnessed in the hundred years since the Gilded Age, with stagnant or falling wages for the large majority of American families. The second is often misdiagnosed: Political pundits decry the polarization within national political discourse and institutions, but the real problem is not generic “polarization.” In the context of such high economic inequality, polarization is to be expected, for its absence would simply represent acquiescence to stagnant wages and the resultant decline in the quality of family life. Rather, the real problem results from strategic polarization from above, that is, from the manipulation of political sentiment and democratic institutions to produce paralysis within national democratic institutions. Thus the second demon is policy paralysis: our national political institutions’ inability to foster any shared prosperity or good society in the American future— their failure, in the context of strategic polarization from above, to effectively address a broad variety of crucial realities undermining a shared American future. Those issues include economic inequality and stagnant family wages, the underclass status of a large immigrant sector, the ballooning national debt, the corrosive influence of unregulated money on elections, and the unsustainable rise of health care costs despite recent policy reforms.
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Wood, Richard L. and Brad R. Fulton. A Shared Future: Faith-Based Organizing for Racial Equity and Ethical Democracy. University of Chicago Press.
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