Pluralism (Associations - American Character)

The American Character

Uncle Sam

What makes Americans tick? Answers from de Tocqueville to Obama.

American history—and its politics—is replete with references to the country's "national character." The Framers themselves hoped that America's pluralistic society would evolve into a shared political and social destiny, ultimately serving as a counterweight to the country's cultural diversity. But what of the "American character" today? The concept, however important to our shared destiny, continues to challenge those who wish to define it.

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The American Optimist

Lady of optimism guiding American pioneers westward

Americans have had more then their fill of unhappy news recently, but the good still outweighs the bad.

As the body count and destruction continue unabated in Iraq, newspapers headline congressmen pleading guilty to influence-peddling and resigning over suggestive e-mails to teenagers. If that's not enough, the nation's schoolchildren have apparently become acceptable targets for gun-toting misfits and poverty is on the rise. Americans can only take a deep breath and wonder what's gone wrong with "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

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The Changing Face of American Pluralism

Policy Today magazine cover
August 9, 2006

Americans' ability to come together is part of the country's democratic bedrock. But are we trading our bonds of association for "checkbook advocacy groups" and civic disconnection?

Americans have always been excellent congregators. From the Revolutionary War to the Million Man March, our essential ability to unite has maintained our democratic tradition and shaped our national character, even as the contours of our associations change and develop. Our "clubs" have traditionally included churches, professional associations, trade unions, employers and local community groups, but advanced technology has made virtually any type of association not only possible, but easy and relatively cheap.

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