By Kent R. Kroeger (February 6, 2022)
A popular political narrative in the U.S. news media is the story of a deeply polarized electorate where voters restrict their news consumption to partisan-friendly sources, avoid dissenting viewpoints, and remain loyal to their preferred party.
A November 2021 report by Pew Research summarizes this political landscape: “Partisan polarization remains the dominant, seemingly unalterable condition of American politics. Republicans and Democrats agree on very little — and when they do, it often is in the shared belief that they have little in common.”
In such a political landscape, major legislative compromises become rarer and important domestic and international problems remain unsolved.
Roll Call writer Stuart Rothenberg echoes this viewpoint: “Partisan polarization with two relatively equal parties takes its toll on the country and on voters. It is difficult for Washington to address important issues, since each side can essentially veto what the other wants to accomplish. And it breeds distrust of the opposition’s motives and allegiances.”
Gridlock isn’t all bad, however: Corporate America flourishes in this environment as tax and regulatory policies are more predictable since major changes to them are less likely — but that is an issue for a different essay.
How can we lessen our political divide?
One hypothesis on how our partisan divide will lessen over time — and thereby start the process to solve our nation’s most intractable problems (e.g., economic inequality, rising public debt, addressing climate change, rising health care costs, etc.) — assumes secular trends in national demographics will over time benefit one party (the Democrats) to the disadvantage of the other (the GOP).
But, if anything, recent evidence suggests the emerging Democratic majority may be the Democrats’ castle in the sky. Though he lost the 2020 election, Donald Trump increased his support among minorities compared to 2016, as the Democratic Party struggles to keep Hispanic and Black men in the fold.
Others political observers theorize that the paralyzing effects of extreme partisanship and…