On campus for his 45th reunion, former U.S. Representative Thomas Allen ’67, D-Maine, discussed his forthcoming book, Dangerous Convictions: Why Cherished Ideas Can Be a Source of Congressional Gridlock, about America’s descent into polarized politics in Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinski Recital Hall Friday.
“This tension between what I call individualism and community runs deeply though our culture, deeply through American politics today,” said Allen. “It works best when it is looked at as the yin and the yang of two necessary outlooks on life that we all share together in some way. In American politics today, I think those two virtues have become divided, and are in such conflict, which underlies this very frustrating political gridlock and polarization that we have today.”
Allen says he began writing the book, “partly out of the frustration over the media coverage, which seems to me to be either too shallow or too partisan,” adding that the question that drove him to write this book and not the memoir he’d originally conceived is one he said fellow Democrats would ask themselves in the middle of a debate. “We would say, ‘do these guys believe what they are saying?’” Allen conceded that “these guys” — Republicans — were asking the same thing of their opponents.
“We’re at a place where neither side really understands the other,” said Allen, who identified four areas he found most disturbing, because the arguments, according to Allen, had stepped into an area in which they were not supported by evidence: “tax cuts pay for themselves, we’ll be welcome as liberators, government-regulated or -run healthcare doesn’t work and climate science isn’t proof.”
“Those four areas, involving probably the most important public policies of the day, in one way or another, were the places where the capacity of each side to understand the other was most problematic.”
Allen’s book, Dangerous Convictions: Why Cherished Ideas Can Be a Source of Congressional Gridlock, is to be released in January 2013.
Since 2009, Allen has been president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, the principal trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. Photos by Brian Wedge ’97.