A Survey That Explains Anything-Goes Partisanship In Congress And Our Misplaced Priorities

Most days I wake up to news of outrage at Republican leaders, who are accused of brazen hypocrisy and ignoring rules of civil dialogue to pass their agenda by any means necessary. The Senate is currently crafting a bill to overhaul the national healthcare system, largely in secret, in ways that they had originally blasted Democrats for doing years ago during the debate over Obamacare.

What gives?!

The cheap explanation is that Republican leaders are soulless hyper-libertarians who don’t care at all about democratic values.

I think the simpler explanation is that our representatives in Congress are responding to pressure from constituents. And, most Americans loathe the other party.

With the help of Google Surveys, I asked a simple question: “Which do you believe is a greater long-term threat to America: The Republican Party, The Democratic Party, or Russia?” That is, do citizens believe that the other party is arguably the greatest existential threat to the country?

About 75% of citizens answered in the affirmative. And, to me, it explains why Republicans can’t even be pictured working with Democrats on issues as seemingly bi-partisan as disaster relief. Americans see the other party as the enemy — and there’s no use cooperating with someone you think is destroying the country. ‘Screw norms’, the country seems to saying, “this is war”, and the enemy is their colleagues in the same building.

(Note: The poll has a very small sample size, so the margin of error is big. I just wanted to prove that most Americans see the other party as the enemy, not an outside threat. Point estimates are unreliable).

Under this environment, the best thing either party can do is block the other’s agenda. And, for folks who think Trump is a danger, that may be a good thing. But, over the long-term, the country’s eventually going to have to come together, or we’ll never make any progress on issues like climate change or automated job loss.

Even if Democrats win the midterm elections, they can’t pass any bills. If they are lucky enough to win enough seats to pass any bills, most of the progress will be unraveled, when a hyper-partisan populous places Republicans back in power with a mandate to undo everything — and so it will go.

I haven’t talked to a single Democrat in Congress who has any plans for long-term solutions.

Solving partisanship is now a prerequisite to dealing with any other issues. It may be the only policy debate we should be having, because any legislation that happens to pass won’t be law for long.

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