Amy Rathfelder | Are More Divided Than Ever?

Written by on June 4, 2017

Are we more divided than ever? In this episode of Beyond Footnotes we interviewed Amy Rathfelder, an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science, but with a large amount of history credits and experience. This spring she presented her thesis, “The Myth of Adam’s Thirteen Clocks” at the Northwest Regional Phi Alpha Theta (history honors society) conference since her thesis combines historical methods with political science methods. Considering the recent political environment, her thesis, on divided times in America’s history and how leaders responded to them, is very relevant. In this episode we explore the process of doing an undergrad thesis, combining political science with history, and the question “Are we more divided than ever?” If you want to learn the answer, listen to this episode!

Amy Rathfelder is an undergraduate at Portland State University and is graduating with her degree in Political Science in Spring 2017. She is a Student Fellow at PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, a Teaching Assistant for the Foundations of Community Leadership class at PSU. Amy works at Vision Action Network as Communications Operative and at Organizing for Action as Oregon State Digital lead. She will be attending American University this fall to get her Masters in Political Communications.

Listen on Soundcloud:


Keep an eye out on for her thesis:  The Myth of Adams’ Thirteen Clocks: An Analysis of Divisive Political Rhetoric and Discourse in the United States, From the Philadelphia Convention to the Twenty-First Century.

Dueno, S., and Rathfelder, A. (2 June 2016). “Sustainability Leadership Links: Susan Anderson on Portland’s Future.” Retrieved from leadership-links- susan-anderson- on-portlands- future.


Recommended Further Reading (with notes from Amy)


For a political science perspective and analysis of the phenomenon of political polarization, check out Brady and Nivola’s Red and Blue Nation? Characteristics of America’s Polarized Politics. I referenced it frequently in my research and it was a good resource for exploring the many elements of political divisiveness as it manifests itself in our country.

For historical contexts, my favorite period to study was the Founding Era (since I’m an early Americanist). For a research-based analysis of the ratification debates, I loved Pauline Maier’s book, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788. Here’s a link to an interview Maier did about the book:

For a more “fun” read, I’d recommend Paul Aron’s Founding Feuds: The Rivalries, Clashes, and Conflicts That Forged a Nation.

Lastly, here are a couple great video sources for studying divisiveness as it exists currently. The first is a TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who has studied the contributing factors that shape our social and political behavioral choices:

The second is the link to the PBS documentary that helped inspire this research, “The Divided States of America.” Filmed following the election of Donald Trump, it’s a fantastic look into our current state of division, and the implications of our current brand of political communications:





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