Feature

How politics became dysfunctional

When politics is warfare, and the other side is both evil and dangerous, compromise becomes impossible—indeed, it becomes a sellout, said Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post.

Robert J. SamuelsonThe Washington Post

Americans have good reason to have lost faith in politics, said Robert J. Samuelson. Instead of resolving differences between the country’s factions, modern politics “exaggerates them”—producing the bitterly polarized and paralyzed system we have today. More than a third of all Americans describe themselves as independents (the same percentage as in 1992), and polls show that the nation’s political balance has changed little in recent decades. But it is now the partisans of the Left and Right who shape the national agenda, through inflammatory cable TV shows, the Internet, talk radio, and various advocacy groups.

When politics is warfare, and the other side is both evil and dangerous, compromise becomes impossible—indeed, it becomes a sellout. Neither Democratic nor Republican leaders can win broad public support for any course of action. So in each election, voters disgusted with the status quo throw the bums out and give the “change” party a chance. “But it’s only a matter of time before they feel betrayed,” because Washington is trapped in the sound and fury of partisan bickering. “Can next week’s election resolve this stalemate? It seems doubtful.”

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