How did American politics become so polarized? MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki
points to clash of two larger-than-life characters in the 1990s, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, as the origin of our viciously tribal politics. In The Red and The Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism
(Ecco, 2018), Kornacki traces the political journeys of the two. We see how Clinton won the argument about the ideological future of the Democratic Party when liberal titan Mario Cuomo bowed out of the 1992 presidential primary. And we see how Gingrich seized power in the Republican Party by eschewing bipartisan comity and forcing the ouster of Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright. The two figures would tangle throughout most of the Clinton presidency, with Gingrich suffering his own ouster after the push to impeach Clinton backfires in the 1998 midterms. But after impeachment and the years of brawling, the nation remains so divided that the 2000 presidential election has to be decided by the Supreme Court. Kornacki also explores the 1992 candidacies of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, as well as the aborted 2000 Reform Party candidacy of Donald Trump, to better understand the populism of today.
Bill Scher is a Contributing Editor for POLITICO Magazine. He has provided political commentary on CNN, NPR and MSNBC. He has been published in
The New York Times, The New Republic, and
The New York Daily News among other publications. He is author of
Wait! Don’t Move to Canada, published by Rodale in 2006.