In his admirably measured book...French convincingly argues that polarization is putting America on a perilous path to disunion ... French understands better than most that coexistence with people of radically different backgrounds and beliefs is not only possible but necessary, and that it requires a basic respect for pluralism that fewer and fewer Americans seem willing to show ... To illustrate the dangerous consequences of what could happen if his plea goes unheeded, French presents a pair of chillingly believable, near-future secessionist scenarios involving California and Texas ... Both seem likelier than a Trumpian repeat of the Reichstag fire predicted by so many commentators.
... one of those books that’s almost too timely. Its long-range predictions already feel out of date ... The first part of Divided We Fall is a very familiar overview of current trends in partisan polarization ... An even more familiar litany of alleged perpetrators...are trotted out as French decries the vitriol and winner-takes-all spirit that have taken over our democracy. Given the party identification of the White House’s current occupant, and which side is perpetrating the vast majority of political violence in the country today, it seems to me that French is reaching a bit to make both sides seem equally responsible for this state of affairs. Then again, according to his schema, I would think that, so it’s worth just conceding the point to get to the more provocative part of the book, which imagines the end result of these trends ... What’s odd about French’s scenarios is that it’s a little hard to tell why he thinks they’re a bad thing ... It’s on the question of civil rights where French’s otherwise scrupulous neutrality starts to break down ... French doesn’t acknowledge environmental issues at all except to sneer at plastic straw bans ... while Americans are too entangled at this point for either formal secession or French’s federalist soft partition, it’s very possible for us to share the same physical space while increasingly living in very different countries.
... even if our current tattered state of the nation makes secession appear reasonable, that doesn’t make...David French’s new book...relevant. Our failure so far to develop 'cultural antibodies,' as French puts it, will mean continued political dysfunction in the years ahead, probably more violence as well. But it’s highly unlikely it will mean secession ... French, a Harvard-trained lawyer and old-school conservative, is better served when he focuses on one of the key reasons Americans have become so divided: cable news and the internet.
... incisive ... French enriches his political and historical analysis with reflections on his 2007 deployment to Iraq as an Army Reserve captain and the harassment of his wife and adopted Ethiopian daughter by alt-right trolls. This well-informed and often moving account provides an antidote to the ills of political partisanship.