Partisan Politics in America


The world of politics can be very divisive. When one indulges in political discussion, he or she may have entered into very stormy waters, in many cases. There are plenty of potential reasons for political divisiveness in America, as well as many different problems caused by partisan politics.

Dissatisfaction with the current political situation in America seems to be fairly high. A recent USA Today poll examined the political divide in America. According to the poll, about 48 percent of those surveyed “strongly disapproved” with how Congress as a whole handles its job. A further 29 percent “somewhat disapproved.” Granted surveying a large number of people and coming up with a comprehensive picture on where a population stands is not a particularly exact process. Nevertheless, polls such as this at least give some indication that people are less than satisfied.

According to the poll 67 percent of those surveyed indicated that Congress should do more to work across party lines. Perhaps amusingly, 67 percent also said that members of Congress should spend more time at home, rather than in Washington. Unfortunately, 75 percent were of the opinion that America has become more divided politically in the past few years.

While political division might be higher these days than normally, it should be pointed out that dissatisfaction with government is hardly a new thing. For example a look at presidential approval ratings shows how rocky and uncertain things can be. Some presidents seem to steadily decline in approval. Others have times of very high approval followed by steep drops. For example, after the events of 9-11, George W. Bush’s approval rating was very high, likely because there was more of a feeling of unity in the country. As time went on, his approval trended downward, with a few upward spikes now and then.

There are numerous potential causes for partisan division in America. One cause for division is simply the sheer number of people in the United States. After all, there are over 300 million people in America as a whole, so there is virtually no way that all people of voting age will agree on everything. In any case, humans are individuals with a wide array of perspectives, needs, and goals. Disagreement in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. The idea that a relatively small number of representatives can accurately decide what is best for everyone seems a little far-fetched from this perspective.

Partisan politics in America can certainly be problematic. For one thing, when politicians have agendas other than doing what is right, they risk alienating their voters and promoting a general climate of distrust in terms of politics and government. Another potential problem with extreme partisan loyalty is that it can short-circuit intelligent political discussion. People become more interested in a Republican versus Democrat debate than actually focusing on the issues at hand.

None of this is to say that bi-partisan agreements are always good. President Obama has often complained about gridlock in Washington. However, agreement and compromise for its own sake is not necessarily beneficial for America. It is one thing to find common ground, but compromising one’s principles is another matter entirely.

Consistent principles are necessary to overcome the partisan divide in a way that is not harmful to the individual citizens of America. Perhaps freedom and liberty should be the foundation of American political thought, rather than a Democrat versus Republican paradigm.

Another possible way to help move away from partisan politics would be a gradual decentralization of power in America. Again, a few people trying to make decisions for everyone is going to lead to problems.

Partisan Politics in America can create various problems. This issue is not likely to be completely solved any time soon, but the problems it causes can be lessened. However, doing so requires voters to act on consistent principles, rather than a blind loyalty to a political party.

Editorial By Zach Kirkman
Boston Globe

USA Today


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