I wrote a piece for @ModAmHist on the #polarization discourse, the larger implications of approaching the past through the prism of polarization, and the challenges of writing a pre-history of the (supposedly) “polarized” present. cambridge.org/core/journals/…
@ModAmHist I’m certainly not providing final answers in the piece – rather trying to engage in what I believe is an urgently needed debate on the limits and potential pitfalls of using #polarization as a governing historical paradigm (find the pdf here: cambridge.org/core/services/…)
@ModAmHist I’m extremely grateful to the editors at @ModAmHist who did a fantastic job helping me say what I wanted to say – and to the brilliant Brooke Blower, in particular: working on this piece with her was an absolute pleasure and a wonderful experience. #twitterstorians #polarization
@ModAmHist The piece also outlines a research agenda that aims to historicize the idea of #polarization; how it’s been theorized in the social and political sciences, employed by historians, and how it’s shaped the broader political discourse. Give it a read – it’s quite short! @ModAmHist

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More from @tzimmer_history

24 Jul
I really appreciate this deeply personal column by @perrybaconjr on life inside a political “bubble.”

I wholeheartedly agree that not all “bubbles” are the same, and not all are bad. Let me add a few thoughts:
I live in much more of a bubble than @perrybaconjr. According to this NYT interactive, 92 percent of the people in my neighborhood are Democrats. I’ll tell you why I’m fine with that. nytimes.com/interactive/20…
I have a personal red line for my private life: If you don’t think this country should be a democracy in which all people are equal and count equally regardless of race, gender, or religion, I’d rather not hang out with you.
Read 13 tweets
23 Jul
No better way of telling the world who you really are than to go all “They’re coming for our heroes!!” over the removal of a statue of *Nathan Bedford Forrest*
It can be difficult to assess historical figures who are revered for certain important achievements even though there are also deeply problematic aspects about them.

But that’s absolutely not what we’re looking at here. This guy is famous solely as a symbol of white supremacy.
Nathan Bedford Forrest is famous not in spite, but solely because he was a traitor, war criminal, and the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He was the embodiment of white supremacist violence when he was alive, and has been a symbol of continued white supremacy ever since.
Read 8 tweets
21 Jul
Exactly right. These biases hamper the ability of most civic institutions to recognize, acknowledge, and react adequately to the GOP’s anti-democratic radicalization.

These problems are most visible in the mainstream media’s continued failing to handle the rightwing threat.
More and more journalists and analysts - including some who work for mainstream media institutions - see this clearly, of course, and use their platforms to alert the public to the problem, demand change, and suggest a better way forward, as @ThePlumLineGS does here:
But we’re still being fed a steady diet of the “both sides squabbling as always” kind of obscuring nonsense that @EricKleefeld rightfully criticizes here:
Read 10 tweets
20 Jul
I struggle with the “nihilism” framing. It may well capture what’s driving some Republican officials. But it tends to obscure the nature of the reactionary political project that animates most people on the American Right: They aren’t motivated just by the prospect of power.
Here is a long thread on why we should start from the assumption that Republicans are true believers in what they do, convinced to be justified in preventing multiracial pluralism - the downfall of “real” (read: white Christian patriarchal) America - by whatever means necessary:
I also think that focusing on opportunism and lust for power is not only inadequate analytically, it also benefits shameless cynics like Mitch McConnell, at least in terms of media coverage: Better to be seen as a devious, nihilistic genius than a reactionary white nationalist.
Read 5 tweets
16 Jul
I have somewhat ambivalent feelings about the use of the term “fascism” to describe the American Right. It’s complicated.

But this - the racist demagoguery, the idea of the racialized Other as a diseased threat, the desire to keep the nation “pure” - is pretty fascist.
I reflected a little bit on the “Is it fascism?” question here, with links to a great piece by @lionel_trolling and an excellent episode of the @KnowYrEnemyPod podcast, both providing insightful, nuanced explorations of the fascism debate:
I’ll also link to this thread in which I reflected on – and rejected – an argument advanced by some scholars of Nazism that today’s American Far Right can’t be “fascist” because fascism was a phenomenon exclusive to Europe’s interwar period:
Read 14 tweets
15 Jul
Here’s the thing: Many scholars and observers saw this clearly and spent the entire Trump era trying to get America’s civic and political institutions to acknowledge the threat and act accordingly - while constantly being derided by the Very Serious Pundit class as “alarmists.”
When it comes to the authoritarian threat to democracy - and the anti-democratic radicalization amongst conservatives in general - the “alarmists” have been right every step of the way. A lot of self-proclaimed Very Serious People should really grapple with that fact in earnest.
The issue is that those who actively worked to obscure the threat to democracy with their anti-alarmism - whether or not they fully understood that’s what they were doing - are still shaping the political discourse going forward. And few have engaged in sincere introspection.
Read 18 tweets

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