What we’ve just witnessed is a symptom, not the cause of the problem.
Regardless of which side of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination you’re on, we should all agree on one thing: What was once regarded as the world’s premier deliberative body is now almost devoid of independence.
The Senate is divided 51-49 in favor of Republicans.
Yesterday’s vote on cloture was decided by that same margin.
Only two of 100 Senators broke ranks.
One Republican and one Democrat.
50 Republicans saw it one way, while Lisa Murkowski went another.
48 Democrats saw it another – only Joe Manchin disagreed.
Think about that. I’ll bet your dinner-table and workplace debates about Kavanaugh didn’t break so neatly along party lines.
So why did Congress?
Well, while the Senate was consumed with partisan rancor over the Kavanaugh nomination this week, a Michigan State University professor of psychology and global urban studies published a study – documenting that polarization among elected officials is at a modern all-time high, and cannot get any higher.
This analysis was published in the journal social networks.
Dr. Zachary Neal performed a unique study looking at political networks among all members of the House and Senate.
He studied data showing who sponsored bills in congress between 1973 and 2016. He found that while thousands of bills are introduced each year, the average member of Congress co-sponsors – only about 200.
And what usually determines what they will co-sponsor? Not the subject – but the party affiliation of the proposer.
According to Dr. Neal, one solution to the problem of polarization – would be the election of more centrists to Congress.
In the meantime, here’s some potential good news:
In 2017, Morris Fiorina, at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, published the book: Unstable majorities: Polarization, party sorting and political stalemate.
Fiorina found that – despite how things appear in the news – Americans are no more politically divided now than we were in the 1970’s.
It’s the parties and the politicians which are more polarized, and have sorted into narrow groups that don’t represent many of the rest of us.
But the typical Democratic or Republican voter has not adopted more extreme ideological views.
Sadly – what many have done – is to think worse of the other side. It’s personal. But not issue-driven.
The point is this:
Yes, there is political division in the nation – too much!
But Congress is much worse in this regard than the rest of us.