Tuesday February 05, 2013 | 10:24 AM

WASHINGTON – Former Maine Congressman Tom Allen offers his inside view on the political dysfunction in Washington and ways to address the polarization in a new book, “Dangerous Convictions: What’s Really Wrong with the U.S. Congress.”

Allen is a Democrat who represented Maine’s 1st Congressional District from 1996 to 2008. Now the president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, Allen draws on his experiences in Congress to attempt to explain why the two major parties no longer seem able to work together.

The problem, according to Allen, is that Democrats and Republicans have such widening, deeply entrenched views on critical issues that members of Congress "operate on different planes" and can no longer comprehend each other.

“Congress today is deeply divided because, to each side, the opinions of the other make no sense and therefore, each concludes, cannot be honestly held,” Allen writes in the book’s introduction. “Interest-group politics is still with us, fueled by unprecedented amounts of money. But it is overlaid and often dominated by what I can only call ‘worldview politics,’ a class of values and convictions much deeper than the competition of interest groups in Washington.”

Those disparate positions are rooted in different takes on self-reliance, or individualism, and the instinct to work together as community. So Allen calls for sustained dialogue among the public and in the media to better understand why the parties cannot find compromise on such polarizing issues as taxes, spending and health care.

The book was published in December by the U.S. division of Oxford University Press. Details are available here on the publisher’s website.

 

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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