I don’t think I need to tell anyone that the United States is divided. We are more divided than we were twenty years ago and it is not the fault of one individual or one party. Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, put together a wonderful piece showing the ideological distribution of Republican and Democratic House members in 1982, 1994, 2002, 2011 and 2012, based on National Journal ratings. You can view his report here.
In 1982, only a handful of Republicans were more conservative than the most conservative Democrat and vice versa. As a result, 344 House members fell in the political middle. Twenty years later, most Democrats were more liberal than the most liberal Republicans and vice versa. As a result, by 2002, only 137 House members were in the political middle. How many House members are in the political middle as of 2012? 11.
These statistics do not explain the divide, rather, they simply show the divide. Certainly gerrymandering has played a part. Many House districts today resemble sea creatures we have yet to discover. Stronger parties have certainly played a role. The political party system today is much stronger than it was thirty years ago.
Here’s my question: is this even a problem? Is it not desirable to have opposing views? Do we really want everyone sitting around singing Kumbaya?
I think the present divide on the Hill shows the present divide in the country. Our Representatives in the House are supposed to represent the 680,000 or so people of their district. Naturally, it would follow that those Representatives are ideologically similar to the majority of the people in their district. Does this hinder the ability of the House to pass legislation? You bet it does! But, you have to take the good with the bad.
Yes, we are a divided country and we might be more divided today than we have been in recent memory. But, our elected officials are just following the trend of the country. Are there ridiculous bills that get passed and necessary bills that do not? Of course. But, it’s always been that way and that is nothing new to this or any recent Congress. Fight for what you believe in, stand up for those beliefs and be capable of backing up those beliefs. That is all we can ask of one another.