Barack Obama rode into Washington in 2008 on a wave of national disgust with partisan politics. Four years later, American public discourse is as fragmented and volatile as ever, and gridlock in Washington is even worse.
At a moment in history when technology has put the world at our fingertips, we remain pulled in opposite directions – toward self-Balkanization along political and religious lines on the one hand, and toward realizing the rich promise of an interconnected world on the other. The World Economic Forum labeled the danger of "cyber neotribalism" – or worldwide self-segregation into isolated internet subcultures – as one of the 50 Global Risks of 2012.
Novelist and Essayist Marilynne Robinson is optimistic about America's resilience in this regard. The nation's founding documents, she says, serve as a powerful reminder of its pluralist ideals, even in times of brutal divisiveness.