We have one theory for our economics: competition. We have another theory for our politics: eliminate competition. How else to explain the mass gerrymandering of the past two or three decades that has eliminated partisan competition in Congressional districts, reduced America to a blue/red, divided nation, and produced the worst political polarization in well over a century.
Though this represents a huge shift in U.S. politics, and accounts for much of the failure of governance, it is pretty much accepted as a fact of political life in insider Washington circles. The incredibly accurate analyst Nate Silver calculates, based on massive data, that there are now no more than 35 competitive House districts (out of 435) and that the nation is divided between “landslide” Democratic and Republican districts.
Though both parties are guilty of the practice of creating “safe seats”, and purging ideological impurity in the process, the greatest impact has been in the Republican party. Creating non-competitive Congressional districts invites take-over of the candidate selection and nomination process by true believers, in the Republican case by the Tea Party, tax deniers, and the gun lobby.
As evidence, there are a lot fewer moderate Republicans than moderate Democrats. The media myth of “equivalence” is simply that. Since the age of Lyndon Johnson, the party of Carter, Clinton, and Obama has been a centrist party, much to the dismay of many New Deal liberals.
To portray the late-20th, early 21st century Democratic party as “liberal” is a product of Fox News fiction.
There is polarization, as the political media repeatedly reports, but the polarization is in the Republican ranks. Put simply: follow the radical anti-government, tax cut, pro-gun program or get a primary—one that you will lose.
So we have two nations: a centrist Democratic nation of blue districts committed to protection of past New Deal programs such as Social Security and Medicare; and a conservative-to-radical Republican nation of red districts opposed to all taxes, all government spending (though without an open list of real cuts), increased military spending, and elimination of environmental and safety regulations.
In a nutshell, this is why there can be no “grand bargain” or long-term solution to national deficits. So long as House Republicans (and many Senators) oppose any revenues, including letting the TEMPORARY Bush tax cuts laps on the wealthiest few, Democrats will not raise age eligibility or accept more conservative cost-of-living formulas for entitlements for the many.
Short of reversing gerrymandering by appointment of State non-partisan redistricting committees, and taking the process out of the hands of partisan legislatures, the only hope for serious, honest government in the national interest is the rise of thoughtful, moderate, independent citizens in the candidate selection and nomination process. So long as radical factions select candidates, so long will we have a dysfunctional government, one that merely supports the theory of those “patriots” who hate their own government.