In his 2007 book, "The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800," historian Jay Winik writes that among Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, none "believed in political parties, which they feared would lead to 'rage,' 'dissolution,' and eventual 'ruin' of the republic..."
The latest poll from the Pew Research Center, "Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years," seems to indicate that the American people have come around to their way of thinking.
The poll, writes The New York Times, found that "the share of self-identified Republicans has declined over the last two decades to about 24 percent of the country, from about 31 percent. The share of Democrats has stayed about steady -- to 32 percent, from 33 percent -- while the share of independents has risen to 38 percent, from 29 percent."
And while "Americans of different races are no more polarized in their political views than they were 25 years ago," suggests the Times, the poll indicates that "Republicans have moved farther to the right -- on economic issues, at least -- than Democrats have move to the left" and the parties "appear to have lost some of the people who were closer to the middle of the political spectrum and retained those closer to the extremes."
In short, more Americans are ditching the big two political parties, leaving hardliners behind. The result? Political stagnation. So much for well-reasoned debate and consensus. So much for moving the country forward.
What appears to frustrate voters is that not enough members of either party seem capable, or interested, in solving our problems. Instead, their primary concern appears to be achieving and holding onto power and the perks of office. Democrats answer the problem of increasing debt with more debt. Republicans want to reduce the size and cost of government, but won't make meaningful cuts. The media play a major role in perpetuating the gridlock by mostly ignoring solutions, focusing instead on the political horse race and the names politicians call each other.
The response from Democrats to a serious proposal for repairing health care as proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was a TV ad in which an actor portraying Ryan tossed an elderly woman in a wheelchair over a cliff. This is not a serious response to a serious proposal. It is street theater.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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