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American Character: A History of Epic Struggle Individual Liberty and the Common Good


In his new book American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, Colin Woodard explores our relationship with our sense of individuality and our need for community.

He says the gridlock in our current political system highlights the tension.

“You can’t remain in this sort of paralyzed, stalemated situation very long. If you do, the country comes more and more in peril. This is not the first time we’ve had a polarized stalemate. The last time this happened was in the 1880s when we were headed toward the civil war,” Woodard says.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Woodard about the book and about how our political system, its parties and our ideals, have evolved over time

“The Democrats and Republicans have exchanged their regional constituents and their platform over the last century,” says Woodard. “So the terms liberal and conservative have become rather confused.”

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River