The Referendum of 2004
The election of 2004 suggested much bad blood between the two parties, but questions remain about how polarized the electorate really is.
The presidential election of 2004 is widely regarded as one of the most important in the past 100 years. But its importance does not derive from clear ideological differences between the candidates and the parties. For example, the two candidates generally agree about longer term goals in Iraq, however much they disagree about appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court or the rollback of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The election is important, rather, because the candidacies of President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry have been framed by two different theoretical understandings of the nature of American society. The victory of one or the other will go a long way toward resolving whether we are a deeply polarized nation, with little hope of reconciliation, or a fundamentally unified one, whose disagreements are not all that deep.
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Alan Wolfe is director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. His latest book, Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It, has just been published.more from this author >>