Has this polarization hurt us?
You’re frustrated that we’ve not made progress on an issue of deep importance to you? You’re not alone.
“‘Polarization’ is to blame”, diagnose political scientists Michael J. Barber and Nolan McCarty, noting, “Congress is more polarized than it has been in 125 years.”7 Colleague Elaine C. Kamarck explains, “… polarization makes it almost impossible to address complex problems whose solutions require bipartisan support.”8 Fellow scholar Gary C. Jacobson elaborates, “… these divisions lead to partisan intransigence and gridlock in Washington, rendering the national government incapable of addressing national challenges in any coherent or effective fashion.”9 McCarty empirically confirms this, finding “Congress produced 166% more legislation in [its] least polarized congressional term than in [its] most polarized.”10
Meanwhile, these issues languish on, neglected:
- Climate Change
- Border Security
- Declining Midwest (“Rust Belt”) economic opportunity
- Social justice
- Affordable Healthcare
- Gun violence
- Vaccine policy
- etc …
And government gridlock isn’t the only negative consequence. Partisan frustration is slowly yet demonstrably devolving toward violence. Shortly before the November, 2020 election, five leading political researchers reported in Politico finding that “Among Americans who identify as Democrat or Republican, 1 in 3 now believe that violence could be justified to advance their parties’ political goals—a substantial increase over the last three years.”11 Three months later, partisans infamously stormed the U. S. Capitol, with violent and fatal consequences.
But … can’t “your side” fix this just by working harder to win control?
Read on >> Fallacy regarding fixing polarization: “We just need to win control again”
7 Michael J. Barber and Nolan McCarty, “Causes and Consequences of Polarization,” in Solutions to Political Polarization in America, Nathaniel Persily Ed. New York,: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 15-17.
8 Elaine C. Kamarck, “Solutions to Polarization,” in Solutions to Political Polarization in America, Nathaniel Persily Ed. New York,: Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 96.
9 Gary C. Jacobson, “Eroding the Electoral Foundations of Partisan Polarization,” in Solutions to Political Polarization in America, Nathaniel Persily Ed. New York,: Cambridge University Press, 2015, p. 83.
10 Nolan McCarty, “The Policy Effects of Political Polarization.” In The Transformation of American Politics: Activist Government and the Rise of Conservatism, eds Paul Pierson and Theda Skoepol. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007: pp 223-255.
11 Larry Diamond, Lee Drutman, Tod Lindberg, Nathan P. Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason, “Americans Increasingly Believe Violence is Justified if the Other Side Wins.” Politico, October 1, 2020.