Hans Zeiger in American Purpose: “What the Culture Wars Get Wrong”
America is hopelessly divided—or so we are told. More than twenty-five years ago, political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote in her book Democracy on Trial that we have been bombarded by “a cascading series of manifestos that tell us we cannot live together; we cannot work together; we are not in this together.” If these messages came by way of manifestos in the 1990s, today they are coming through social media blasts. Voices on all sides tell us that we live in an age of “polarization,” and that we have little left in common.
A recent survey by More in Common, a national nonprofit working to reduce polarization, finds that there is more to the story, however—that there is a “perception gap” among Americans about each other. By wide margins, Democrats tend to underestimate Republicans’ support for education about the country’s past mistakes and about minority groups’ contributions to American life. Similarly, and also by wide margins, Republicans tend to underestimate Democrats’ support for teaching about America’s record of achievement and its foundational ideas and documents.
In fact, More in Common found remarkable commonality among Americans across political differences, race, and other demographic categories. Ninety-two percent of Democrats agree that “all students should learn about how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution advanced freedom and equality.” Eighty-seven percent of Democrats say that “George Washington and Abraham Lincoln should be admired for their roles in American history.” Meanwhile, 93 percent of Republicans acknowledge that “Americans have a responsibility to learn from our past and fix our mistakes,” and 91 percent agree that “throughout our history, Americans have made incredible achievements and ugly errors.”…
Hans Zeiger is the president of the Jack Miller Center and comes to the organization with a background in state and local elected service, and has written and spoken extensively on topics related to American history and civics. Hans previously spent a decade in the Washington State legislature, including service as chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee and ranking member on the House Higher Education Committee. He gained a reputation as a bipartisan collaborator, being named by the National Institute for Civil Discourse as co-recipient of the Gabrielle Giffords Award for Civility in State Governance in 2015. Following his legislative service, Hans was a member of the County Council for Pierce County, Washington State’s second largest county.
Hans led the Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute from 2012 to 2020. He was an adjunct professor of political science at Seattle Pacific University. He was also a Leadership Fellow of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and a Rodel Fellow of the Aspen Institute.
He previously served as a public affairs officer in the Washington Air National Guard. He deployed in support of Operation ALLIES WELCOME, taking part in the resettlement of Afghan refugees in 2021.
Hans holds a bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale College and a master’s in public policy from Pepperdine University. He also studied American politics at Claremont Graduate University.
Want to help the Jack Miller Center transform higher education? Donate today.