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The Electoral Roots of America's Dysfunctional Government



Since the 2010 midterm election, a combination of ideologically polarized parties and divided government has resulted in gridlock in Washington. Neither party can implement its own policy agenda, but bipartisan compromise appears to be almost impossible to achieve. In this article, I present evidence that the deep ideological divide between the parties in Washington is itself rooted in divisions that have been developing in American society for decades. Democratic and Republican voters are much more divided along geographic, racial, cultural, and ideological lines than in the past. Polarization in Washington reflects polarization within the American electorate. The result has been gridlock in Washington along with increasing divergence of social and economic policies at the state level with red states and blue states moving in opposing directions. I argue that the only way to end gridlock in Washington is party democracy, which would require, at a minimum, ending the Senate filibuster but, ideally, major constitutional reforms such as eliminating midterm elections.