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US Politicians' Increasingly Polarized Politics

Polarization between the Democratic and Republican parties has become especially severe. Politicians with extreme views have consistently been on the rise, ultimately making it harder for policy to be enacted — no matter which side proposes it.

A dearth of moderate politicians in Washington, or those who hold ideas from both sides of the spectrum, has made it harder for helpful, nonpartisan ideas to make it past the discussion stage. As this trend continues, democracy becomes less and less effective. 

Studies have shown that when democracies become too polarized, their ability to effectively enact policy crumbles. In the case of the United States, it has been apparent that “deep political divides in Washington have crippled efforts at legislative compromise, eroded institutional and behavioral norms, and incentivized politicians to pursue their aims outside of gridlocked institutions.”

Those invested in the politics of the United States understand that this is a result of the Democratic and Republican parties moving further and further apart. In fact, the two parties are “further apart ideologically today than at any time in the past 50 years.” 

To help clarify the severity of this situation, it might help to understand that throughout history there have always been moderate Democrats and Republicans, a handful of more conservative Democrats and a group of more liberal Republicans. But in the present day, “parties have grown more ideologically cohesive.”

This means that the vast majority of Democrats are quite liberal and the vast majority of Republicans are quite conservative. It appears that the days of having a diverse group of ideological opinions within a political party, once an essential element of our political process, are over.

Today, there are only about two dozen moderate Republicans and Democrats who have been elected into public office on Capitol Hill, in contrast to over 160 elected in 1971-72. This extreme drop of moderates in office showcases how both political parties’ ideological compositions have decreased in diversity, resulting in the polarization of opinions Americans are so used to today.

As political polarization worsens, our democracy becomes more and more at risk of becoming entirely dysfunctional. The political system is in desperate need of politicians who hold more ideologically centrist views, who might balance the current extremism on Capitol Hill.

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