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At the 1858 Illinois state Republican convention, Abraham Lincoln declared: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He was, of course, speaking of the rift between the slave states and the free states, the South and the North, which three years later ignited the bloodiest conflict in American history. While the United States is certainly not heading for another civil war, the long and increasingly nasty presidential election of 2012 reveals deep dissonance within America’s political parties and American society itself.

The Republican party used to be unified and disciplined. This year the contest over who will be nominated to…

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