What do I mean when I say that you probably have politics all wrong? I mean to say that if you think any of the 20 or so presidential candidates can make true on any promises – you are probably wrong. If you think that a president can do anything, you are probably wrong. None of this is to say that the president is a useless figure head with little or no power, like the Queen. Instead, it’s to say that at the very least, the American voting body is too bought into the idea that the president is the most important elected official. It’s to say that people have bought into the idea that congress is what congress is, and that we as the voting body of this Union, can’t do anything to fix it. But those two points of view, if indeed accepted, are wrong.
The President of the United States is indeed an important elected official, and without a doubt maintains a high level of influence and power, albeit limited in great scope. But a president’s promises are only as good as the paper congress used to draft those promises into law. So, if congress chooses not to follow through with what the president wants, little will be achieved with respect to campaign promises.
More vital to this point though is that the polarization of congress, and the widening of the gap between liberal democrats, and conservative republicans, is growing ever wider, and it is in large part due to the rate at which republicans are becoming more extreme.
That being as it may be from a statistical point of view, I think it’s important to consider whether or not views have become more extreme, or if the conservative base has simply become more vocal, more reactive, or if the entire base has become more calibrated to the central tenets of conservatism. To that extent, the gap may be more of an expression of philosophical differences being pummeled to death, and the extremities may be a representation of the fact that Republican’s are more apt to remain stable in their beliefs – even if they are wrong. While I wouldn’t e so apt to suggest that all conservatives are wrong in all perspectives, it is to say that they certainly aren’t swayed – not very often at least – by points of view, or information that would ultimately undermine their line of reasoning that supports a certain idea or political policy.
One thing is for certain, however, and that is the functional state of Congress. Taking DW-NOMINATE data, and congressional data on legislation statistics, this is what the gap looks like between Democrats and Republicans, in congress:
This data set spans from the 52nd Congress to the 113th congress, or, between 1891 and 2015. As you can see here, Congress is more polarized than even after the Civil War, and During World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the various middle eastern conflicts up until the 103rd Congress, when Clinton entered office. But to emphasize the aforementioned points even more, the two graphs below shed a bit more light between the 93rd and 113th Congressional sessions.
The graph above shows that the gap between the two parties in Congress is much to the effort of Republicans. Republicans have shifted so much to the extreme, that I believe it is fair to say that they’re main driving force in terms of political tension, and lack of cooperation. While I tend to believe that statistics speak for themselves, we don’t need statistics and graphs to support that point – we just need one government shutdown over a social issue. Democrats have hardly changed, although they are shooting downwards, and to that point the polarization of congress should not be levied entirely upon the right wing.
This last graph adds a bit more pzazz to my argument. The yellow line there is the median, or the “middle” distance between republicans and democrats. The grey line, is the percentage legislation that is passed, not legislation that is drafted. The correlation between the gap (first graph), and the percentage of legislation passed, is a significant and low to moderate correlation of -..365. That is to say that 36.5% of the cause behind the drop in passed legislation is explained by the increase in polarization. The reason that I chose to use the percentage as opposed to the number, is because legislation introduced has been reduced by at least 50% in that time frame, and at least half of that variance may be related to the fact that legislators are writing longer bills.
So to summarize, the Climate of Congress has become feverishly burdened by differences of opinion, and individuals unwilling to compromise – a problem that no single president can solve on his or her own. The reason that you (the entire voting body), have politics all wrong, is because you invest so much time in electing presidents, when congressional and state elections will have a far greater impact on your well being, and the success of this country. If you truly want change, you have to vote for it in a meaningful way. If you truly want change, you need to elect individuals who are willing to compromise, not necessarily on their beliefs, but on policy. America is very much a melting pot of cultures, religions, attitudes, beliefs, and virtues, and congress should represent that – not corporations, or bullish men who are so vain as to risk the integrity of this nation on a difference of opinion.