That deep divisions exist between Democrats and Republicans is obvious. This because political parties by their nature have ideological differences. However in the recent past these divisions have widened to a level that has not been previously experienced. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, in 1994 64% of Republicans were found to be more conservative with regards to political values compared to the median Democrat. By 2014 however 92% of Republicans were found to be more conservative compared to the median member of the Democratic Party. While Republicans have turned out to be more consistently conservative, Democrats have on the other hand turned out to be more consistently liberal and thus the increase in political polarization.
The interesting thing though is that the ideological commitments are not happening naturally as there are plenty of illogical pairings that don’t have natural connections. For instance there is no relationship between school vouchers and global warming or military strength and peace or police brutality in African American communities. These issues are entirely separate but in the current polarized environment if you know the someone’s opinion on one of these issues there is a very high chance you will correctly predict what their opinions are on the other issues.
The political polarization in the United States has not only had an effect on how Americans on different sides of the political divide view each other but it has also made Congress more unproductive and ineffective. This has resulted in legislators in both houses of Congress, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, finding it hard to complete the most routine of governance tasks.
Seven years ago for instance Republicans declined to raise the debt limit for months and this almost resulted in a default which risked sinking the economic recovery which was fragile at the time. Again five years ago a Republican-controlled Congress forced a government shutdown that lasted two and a half weeks. The issue was the healthcare law or what is popularly referred to as Obamacare.
Both Democrats and Republicans have used the filibuster rule in recent years to stall presidential appointments and legislation with more frequency than at any other time in history. Consequently there have been calls for the scrapping or reformation of the filibuster rule in order to make the legislative process quicker.
The political polarization has been blamed on among other things the partisan gerrymandering of districts where the party in power draws boundaries in a way that will favor it. Thus representatives who are elected in districts which have members of their party in a majority have no incentive to build bi-partisan alliances since being ideologically pure is the only way to ensure re-election.
For the sake of future generations several measures have been proposed all aimed at correcting the situation. One of the suggestions is to have non-partisan commissions being charged with the responsibility of redistricting. Another proposal that has been put forward is holding of non-partisan elections and doing away with party primaries. The state of Nebraska is held as a stellar example with regards to this.