Without a doubt modern politics in the United States has become more polarized than ever. In Ron Brownstein's recently published The Second Civil War, he argues that through the previous centuries actions we have allowed our political system to become the most partisan it has ever been. This partisanship has greatly deviated us from the course set for us by our founders and settlers. James Madison foresaw our current problems throughout the Federalist papers and especially in Federalist No.10. Madison harps on the possible problem of factions or groups of citizens banded together in the pursuit of a common interest. Federalist No.10 reads as true today as it did over 300 years ago, with only modern names such as political action committee or political interest group in the place of faction.
[...] Madison was in favor of a constitution that limited the citizen's direct democracy in an attempt to isolate lawmakers from the corruption of an over imposing majority. This constitution worked, the series of checks and balances kept factions null for years. Until slowly our government's system began to change. Beginning in 1896 through 1936, one party or the other held unified control of the executive and legislative branches except for six years was also the first election according to Brownstein in which our modern politics began to shine through. [...]
[...] According to Brownstein, “both politically and programmatically the only way to control the deficit was both raise taxes and cut spending. Clinton tilted the balance more toward the tax side than Republicans would have done if they controlled the executive branch and Congress, but the balance was hardly lopsided. For every dollar in tax increases, Clinton proposed slightly more than a dollar in spending cuts, a reasonable approach for attacking a problem that both parties had declared a priority. And yet no republican voted for the bill (155). [...]
[...] Politics were partisan during this era usually the party in power wielded overwhelming control, “From 1896 through 1910, Republicans averaged a fifty-eight-seat advantage over the Democrats in the House and a twenty-four seat advantage in the Senate; from 1921 through 1930, the GOP held, on average, seventy-nine more seats than the Democrats in the House and thirteen more in the Senate” (31). Obviously this deficit didn't allow the minority party much room to maneuver, but the constant switch of the majority party allowed “stable and efficient governing coalitions” for the party in control (34). [...]
[...] These internal conflicts led to the current type of politics we see today, and possibly the very thing, which Madison feared most. A resorting of the parties occurred, differences within the two parties' electoral coalitions have narrowed, but the distance between the two sides has widened” (183). The result is that we have created two sides that seldom see eye to eye and what is we see today. Overall, our political system has drastically changed since its inception and some of the fundamental problems are instrumental in any democracy. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee