NYT Review: In “Divided We Fall” Conservative Author David French Warns About Polarization and America’s Path to Disunion

Photo: The Dispatch


Review by Sept. 22, 2020

The 2016 election unleashed a flood of books warning that the duly elected president of the United States would transform the country into a dictatorship. This has proved to be a dubious proposition, and not just because Donald Trump lacks the discipline necessary for such a gargantuanly complex undertaking. The enormous popularity of these jeremiads, even more than their profusion, would appear to contradict their alarmist thesis. It seems odd somehow to speak of impending authoritarianism when its opponents see their books shoot to the top of the best-seller lists… more


“In his admirably measured book Divided We Fall, French convincingly argues that polarization is putting America on a perilous path to disunion.” –James Kirchick, New York Times Book Review

“French laments conspiracy-minded rhetoric from both the right and the left in this incisive examination of contemporary political polarization. This well-informed and often moving account provides an antidote to the ills of political partisanship.” —Publishers Weekly

“French presents a vision for how the country can come together again and embrace national unity.” –Mackenzie Dawson, New York Post

David French warns of the potential dangers to the country—and the world—if we don’t summon the courage to reconcile our political differences.

Two decades into the 21st Century, the U.S. is less united than at any time in our history since the Civil War. We are more diverse in our beliefs and culture than ever before. But red and blue states, secular and religious groups, liberal and conservative idealists, and Republican and Democratic representatives all have one thing in common: each believes their distinct cultures and liberties are being threatened by an escalating violent opposition. This polarized tribalism, espoused by the loudest, angriest fringe extremists on both the left and the right, dismisses dialogue as appeasement; if left unchecked, it could very well lead to secession.

An engaging mix of cutting edge research and fair-minded analysis, Divided We Fall is an unblinking look at the true dimensions and dangers of this widening ideological gap, and what could happen if we don’t take steps toward bridging it. French reveals chilling, plausible scenarios of how the United States could fracture into regions that will not only weaken the country but destabilize the world.

But our future is not written in stone. By implementing James Madison’s vision of pluralism—that all people have the right to form communities representing their personal values—we can prevent oppressive factions from seizing absolute power and instead maintain everyone’s beliefs and identities across all fifty states.

Reestablishing national unity will require the bravery to commit ourselves to embracing qualities of kindness, decency, and grace towards those we disagree with ideologically. French calls on all of us to demonstrate true tolerance so we can heal the American divide. If we want to remain united, we must learn to stand together again.


David French is senior editor of The Dispatch, which describes itself as “Fact-based reporting and commentary on politics, policy, and culture—informed by conservative principles.” He’s also a columnist at Time a former senior writer at National Review, an Iraq War veteran, and the co-author of several books, including Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can’t Ignore, New York Times bestseller. He lives in Tennessee.

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