– Partisan Polarization vs Progress
The two-party system has real issues, in my view. When party support is more important than your country’s interest and your own personal ethics one has to wonder why? When I get confused, I can usually remedy my situation by “following the money”. If you consider politics your career (rather than service to your country) then the money that finances elections becomes extremely important. In our current system the candidate that has the most financial support, on average, will be successful.
While a standing member of the congress is not entirely dependent on financial support through his or her party, it can be a substantial element. When you add that to the pressure to support the “party” agenda then? I leave it to your personal research, but mine indicates that the vast majority of the time your elected representatives will vote as a party group. Does this really make sense? Of course not! Legislative proposals are subject to opinion so we would not expect everyone to agree. However, what are the odds that 100% of one group be in support and 100% of another group to be in opposition?
In the last several decades this trend towards partisan voting has accelerated. When you combine this with the trend of both party’s movement to their more vocal extremes it results in a lack of social and economic progress.
The fact that the majority in both groups tend to have a political agenda closer to the center pains little or no traction. Many issues that require attention go begging despite the fact that they have bipartisan support. It seems that our focus tends to be on issues that are more contentious and far less important to our well-being. And because the extremes in both political arenas are so vocal, they seem to control both the agenda and enhance the polarization.
There are many important issues that I contend would command bipartisan support including limiting deficit spending, immigration reform, security (border & others), infrastructure, climate issues and reducing the cost of healthcare.
We appear to have a Government of the parties, by the parties and for the parties. We would do well to head the words of President Washington in his farewell speech: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus, the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”