Election Day… and the Polarization of Everything?

The vast majority of political observers and “experts” – if pressed, and sometimes even when not – will generally admit that the American political climate is becoming ever more polarized, with the far right and the far left refusing to compromise on much of anything.  For months now, the Republican party in the U.S. Senate has said “No!” to anything of substance proposed by the Democratic leadership, and in the health care legislation, for example, the Democrats effectively avoided dealing with any of the issues of interest to the Republicans, some of which, such as medical malpractice claims reform, have considerable merit.

Yet, if one looks at public opinion polls, most Americans aren’t nearly so radical as the parties that supposedly represent them, although recently that has begun to change, not surprisingly, given the continual public pressure created by the tendency of media news outlets to simplify all issues to black and white… and then to generate conflict, presumably to increase ratings.

Add to this the extreme media pressure placed on any politician who seeks a compromise or another approach outside of either party positions or his or her own past pronouncements, and we have a predictable outcome – polarization and stalemate.

There are times when stalemate may be preferable to ill-considered political action, but at present, there are a number of areas affecting the United States where some sort of action is and has been necessary.  A relative of mine just got her latest health insurance bill – over $1,000 a month for single-party coverage – and this wasn’t a gold-plated health plan by any means.  For two people, the premium would have been over $1,600 monthly, or over $19,000 a year.  Now… the median family income in the United States runs around $50,000 at present, and a $1,600 a month health insurance bill is over 35% of that – and doesn’t include deductibles and co-payments.  Single parent households have a median family income of  roughly $35,000, and $1,000 a month is more than a third of before-tax income.  These figures do tend to suggest that some sort of action on health care insurance was necessary, but the vast majority of one party effectively declared that they weren’t interested in anything proposed by the majority party, and the majority party effectively refused to consider any major issues brought to the table by the minority.  By parliamentary maneuvers, the majority slid through legislation thoroughly opposed by the overwhelming majority of the minority – and further increased the political polarization in Washington.

Similar polarization can be seen on other major issues, from immigration to energy policy and climate change legislation, and, of course, taxation.   One party wants to soak those who have any income of substance, and the other wants to reduce taxes so much that we’ll never dig our way out of the deficit.  Those who would suffer the greatest taxation don’t have enough to cover the deficit, and cutting or eliminating taxes, as some have proposed, would destroy us as a nation.

Tell me… exactly how does this polarization resolve anything?

2 thoughts on “Election Day… and the Polarization of Everything?”

  1. erispope says:

    I would have to question what response the Democrats received to their questions about what the Republicans were interested it – while the effect may seem to have been a total Democratic victory, there were important provisos written into the bill at the suggestion of Republicans who promptly refused to vote for it.

    Attempting to reach a consensus with a party of “No!” seems to be rather futile to me (as long as you want a result).

    It seems to me that what your post suggests is the failure of the Democrats to underline that they did in fact try to reach a consensus; that under this process the Republicans put forward suggestions; and that the result was a bill which did not contain solely what the Democrats desired (I hope), while still not gaining any votes from the Republicans.

    From across the pond, it seems that the Democrats may be technically successful while performing a very lackluster job with their public information / propaganda. It should have been easy to talk about why single-payer healthcare works better than ever-rising insurance rates, why choices have to be made (“would you rather let a government bureaucrat decide what treatment you get… or someone who gets a bonus if your request is declined?”) and how the party of “No!” will just keep getting their checks from Big Pharma for maintaining the status quo.

    That failure of the Democrats is indeed a grave one when one is dealing with the narrow information channels most US voters have access to – few people are interested enough (and skilled enough) to be able to research the actual positions of politicians.

    Once upon a time, that job was delegated to journalists – apparently they’re doing some other job these days.

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