Tribalism isn't the real reason America is divided

November 13, 2019


Partly to blame is our increasing obsession with the American presidency as an embodiment of hope and change, to borrow a phrase.


Long before former President Barack Obama was supposed to save the country from its many suffering ills, so too were Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. These were merely men — politicians, at that — but onto each of them was foisted a heavy mantle of expectation that was never going to be fully realized.


The paternalism of the presidency was baked in from the get-go. George Washington recoiled at the notion of being called "the father of his country" in newspapers, and, as Thomas Fleming writes in "The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers," Washington did "his utmost to avoid acknowledging this tendency to view him as a demigod." But our view of the chief executive as a fatherly figure who is there to guide us and care for us only grew.


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