Based on these trends, I'd say it's not been a healthy direction for America. Hirsh cites the founding fathers, the Jefferson-Adams letters:
When Jefferson, in his letter of May 5, 1817, condemned the "den of the priesthood" and "protestant popedom" represented by Massachusetts' state-supported church, he was speaking for both of them--the North and South poles of the revolution. Yet John McCain, even with the GOP nomination in hand, would never dare repeat his brave but politically foolhardy condemnation of the religious right in 2000 as "agents of intolerance." Why? Because we have become an intolerant nation, and that's what gets you elected.And as a result you have this kind of shit in politics as Hirsh points out:
We must endure "lapel-pin politics" that elevates the shallowest sort of faux jingoism over who's got a better plan for Iraq and Afghanistan. We have re-imported creationism into our political dialogue (in the form of "intelligent design"). Hillary Clinton panders shamelessly to Roman Catholics, who have allied with Southern Protestant evangelicals on questions of morality, with anti-abortionism serving as the main bridge.
Hirsh explains the irrational southern conservative hero worship of GW Bush:
In Bush there seems little trace left of the Eastern WASP sensibility into which he was born and educated, and which explains so much of his father's far more moderate presidency. The younger Bush went to Andover, Yale and Harvard, but he rebelled against the ethos he learned there. The transformation is complete, right down to the Texas accent that no one else in his family seems to have.
And you can see where we are now as a result: seriously lacking leadership possessing sensibility, intelligence, prudence and the competence that moderate, balanced and diverse influences bring. Some might say it's a culture war where a lack of knowledge coupled with religious fundamentalism, authoritarianism, isolationism, and bigotry have indelibly changed American politics. Hence the emergence of intolerance, the 'white Christian party' and the neo-cons. I shudder to think where we'd be right now if the Bush presidency had been successful in any measure. Fortunately, the jury is in on that.