Published on: February 20th, 2020

The Roots of Our Partisan Divide: Christopher Caldwell

By Krystina Skurk

Why have the partisan battles of today become so bitter?  Do these battles go deeper than mere policy concerns?  In a January 30th lecture, Christopher Caldwell discussed these questions at a lecture hosted by Hillsdale in D.C.

Christopher Caldwell is a contributing editor at the Claremont Review of Books and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.  He is also author of the new book, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.

His new book “is a brilliant and ambitious account of how the reforms of the past 50 years left the country with two incompatible political systems and drove it towards conflict,” said Hillsdale student Tessa Ens in her introduction of the speaker.

Caldwell’s book begins with the assassination of John F. Kennedy and ends with the election of Donald Trump.  The book covers society’s changing views within that time period on race, sex, war, debt, and diversity.

“I've been asked here this evening to explain how American society has come to be divided by party and by ideology in a way that it maybe has not been since the Civil War,” Caldwell began.

Caldwell spent much of his lecture describing the impact of the civil rights movement.  He argues that Civil Rights laws set up a second constitution with the power to override the first, and discussed some of the unintended consequences of it.

Many audience members were eager to ask questions after the lecture.  One man challenged Caldwell’s argument that rights should not be defined by judges.  Caldwell clarified that he believes judges have a duty to protect rights that are declared in the Constitution, but they should not have the power to define new rights for all of society.

You can read more in our latest edition of Imprimis

About Hillsdale in D.C.

Hillsdale in D.C. is an extension of the teaching mission of Hillsdale College to Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to teach the Constitution and the principles that give it meaning. Through the study of original source documents from American history—and of older books that formed the education of America’s founders—it seeks to inspire students, teachers, citizens, and policymakers to return the America’s principles to their central place in the political life of the nation.

About Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College is an independent liberal arts college located in southern Michigan. Founded in 1844, the College has built a national reputation through its classical liberal arts core curriculum and its principled refusal to accept federal or state taxpayer subsidies, even indirectly in the form of student grants or loans. It also conducts an outreach effort promoting civil and religious liberty, including a free monthly speech digest, Imprimis, with a circulation of more than 5.7 million. For more information, visit