The Student News Site of Dr. Michael M. Krop

The Lightning Strike

The Student News Site of Dr. Michael M. Krop

The Lightning Strike

The Student News Site of Dr. Michael M. Krop

The Lightning Strike

Political polarization grounds Washington into a standstill

Political polarization has flared up in the United States and Congress has grinded to a standstill, unable to address many of the issues facing the nation today due to a variety of factors, with Republicans sharing more of the blame.


 As Americans suffer under environmental, immigration, economic, and housing crises, Congress is unable to pass any major legislation to fix these problems. 


Bipartisanship, or elected representatives from different political parties working together, has slowed down significantly. Bipartisan bills are much more infrequent and politicians from different sides of the aisle have failed to find common ground on their major disputes, even on ones that Americans have broad consensus on. 


The 81st Congress (1949- 1950) passed 2,482 bills, compared to only 34 during the first year of the current Congress, according to LegiScan and Brookings. And the majority of the bills that have been passed have nothing to do with the aforementioned crises, instead addressing bureaucratic classifications or small amendments to previous bills. 


While political polarization, or intense political divide, has been a factor many other times in American history, it is uniquely bad today. 


During the Civil Rights Movement, tensions between pro and anti civil rights groups were intense. While it took a lot of time and effort to pass legislation, there were Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the debate, leading to there being enough politicians to consider voting in favor of the Civil Rights Act, with it ultimately passing. 


Today, there are few politicians who have views that differ from their party stance. As an example, there are few pro-trans Republican politicians or pro-life Democratic politicians, with the same being true across the vast majority of issues. This has led to no major action being taken on issues that need to be addressed. 


Recently, there has been hope of an immigration compromise to combat the crisis on our southern border. However, the Republican push for extreme provisions, including subjecting migrant children to mandatory detention policies, has alienated Democrats from the deal. Congress has also failed to pass major legislation on housing and healthcare, both of which many Americans have been struggling to afford. 


Part of the problem has been the rise of partisan Republican news organizations, such as Fox News. These companies report information through a polarized tint, radicalizing people into extremes and driving them to kick out moderate politicians in primary elections. This was especially true in 2022, with many Republican incumbents being kicked out mainly because of their opposition to former President Donald Trump. The politicians that have replaced them have proven unwilling to compromise. 


As a result, according to a Pew Research study, Congressional Republicans have moved to the right by around four times as much as Congressional Democrats have moved toward the left since the 1970s.


 Partisan news sites also distort candidates’ beliefs, even those who support popular positions. As an example, 7 in 10 Americans want to add a public option to Obamacare. However, biased news companies distort these candidates’ positions, making them seem more extreme. This has led to the pattern of political calcification, in which voters are unlikely to vote for candidates from other political parties, even if the candidate from their party is extreme on certain issues.


 Social media sites have also contributed to the problem, with many using algorithms that align content with users’ political beliefs. 


“Social media reinforces polarization because people tend to gravitate to their political views online, making them not open to other points of view or objectivity,” Social Studies teacher Eric Hafter said. 


All of these factors have gridlocked our Congress and have prevented it from addressing the issues that matter most. To resolve this, Americans should try to consume news from a variety of sources of all political perspectives, and should research political candidates with an open mind.


 Additionally, people should demand that their representatives reach across the aisle and compromise on issues, and should seek to replace them with candidates that do if they don’t change. If we do this, we can get a better Congress and respond to issues that are affecting the average American.

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