Felicia Muftic: Gridlock and the demise of compromise
September 18, 2014
We all love to bemoan the gridlock in Washington. Why does it persist?
I suspect that the definition of gridlock changes from party to party. Democrats want to keep the laws they support and for which they voted. Republicans define it as: Make both houses of Congress majority Republican, and they will end gridlock by their domination of the entire process.
The middle, moderate, and less partisan voters have been the arbiter in the past, swinging close elections. The middle still lives, but less so.
One of the most revealing polls taken of American attitudes in politics was released in June by the Pew Research Center. Per Pew, two-thirds of voters do not align themselves with either extreme, crossing the partisan divide on some issues. Pew finds, "The majority do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the nation. And more believe their representatives in government should meet halfway to resolve contentious disputes rather than hold out for more of what they want."
If that is the case, then why the gridlock in Washington? Why is compromising happening less than in the past? Moderates and the middle might think that compromise is how the legislative process should work: Give some and take some is fair. The extremes think compromisers should be defeated in their primaries as unfit to represent them in Congress. Most do not fear general elections because gerrymandered districts ensure they will win.
It is harder to get compromise than it used to be because more are less compromising: There is a distinct left/right split that permeates the entire electorship and, per Pew, with more ideological uniformity than in the past. Listening to Fox News and MSNBC, we did not need a poll to tell us, but Pew put it into numbers: "92 percent of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94 percent of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican."
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The Pew poll also found more align themselves with either extreme than before. "In each party, the share with a highly negative view of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994." Pew finds most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party's policies "are so misguided that they threaten the nation's well-being." When voices become so convinced that Armageddon will happen if the other side dominates, it is hard to bring those extremists into any compromise deals.
The result is that Americans are "fed up" with Washington, per a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Obama sinks to 40 percent, but Americans give congressional Republicans a 19 percent favorable rating and congressional Democrats 31 percent favorable.
For those not motivated by partisanship, the question will be, how many left in the middle will even turn up to vote and swing the elections? That turnout factor is enough to give pollsters fits predicting outcomes.
For more, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogpot.com.