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Congress is polarized largely because Americans live in communities of like-minded people who elect more ideological representatives.
Today, almost all liberals are Democrats and almost all conservatives are Republicans. In the House, the most conservative Democrat, Bobby Bright, of Alabama, was farther to the left than the most liberal Republican, Joseph Cao, of Louisiana.
The same was true in the Senate, where the most conservative Democrat, Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, was farther to the left than the most liberal Republican, Olympia Snowe, of Maine.
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“Depending on your tastes, our condition is the natural result of radical conservatism or perverse liberalism,” he wrote.
“Tom De Lay or Nancy Pelosi, big oil or greedy trial lawyers, religious zealots or gay activists, Fox News or the New York .” He repeated the theme later, while describing the fights between Bill Clinton and the Newt Gingrich-led House, in the nineteen-nineties: “In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 20, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage.” Washington, as he saw it, was self-defeatingly partisan.
According to Poole and Rosenthal’s data, both the House and the Senate are more polarized today than at any time since the eighteen-nineties.
It would be hard for any President to reverse this decades-long political trend, which began when segregationist Democrats in the South—Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond—left the Party and became Republicans.
“He loves to deal with both sides of the issue,” Kudlow later wrote. And he wants to keep the dialogue going with conservatives.” Obama’s view, shared with many people at the time, was that professional pundits were wrong about American politics.
It was a myth, he said, that the two political parties were impossibly divided on the big issues confronting America. Compared with some other Western countries, where Communists and far-right parties sit in the same parliament, the gulf between Democrats and Republicans was narrow.