Sunday, March 31, 2013

Polarization, (political type)

Been reading " The Second  Civil War, How Extreme Partisanship has paralysed Washington and Polarized American"  by Ronald Brownstein  The title pretty much sums up the book.  It was published in 2007, just before Great Depression 2.0   It treats the situation as a Washington DC problem, a problem caused by Congressmen who are no longer interested in forging legislation acceptable to both sides and passing it.  Brownstein complains that modern Congressmen are more interested in sticking it to the other side than forming a concensus.  All of this is interesting, but Brownstein misses the point.
   Congressmen vote their districts.  When the district has the bit in its teeth and is running in one direction, the Congressman must vote that way, if he wants to remain a Congressman.  Congressmen are only free to cut deals on issues that their district doesn't care about.
   The reason Congress is more polarized is that the voters are more polarized.  The country is evenly split between liberals and conservatives (alternate names for Democrats and Republicans)  Neither side has enough votes to push their legislation thru, so nothing gets done.  Brownstein's book would have been more interesting if he had investigated the causes of this vast split in American voters.  Why are the voters more partisan than they used to be?  The last election was a close one.  The Democrats didn't win enough House seats to give the sort of control that FDR enjoyed.  Until there is a sea change voter's attitudes about  taxes, spending, abortion, and immigration, which elects a solid majority in favor of one course of action,  little will get done.
   These things take time.  If you believe the polls, we are  seeing such a change in attitudes about gay marriage right now.  I don't really expect that kind of movement across the board.  So we will have to bumble along with Washington deadlocked for quite a few more years.  This ain't all bad,  a lot of destructive legislation won't get passed. 

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