GOVT 101 Lecture Notes - Lecture 28: Voting Rights Act Of 1965, Pew Research Center, Socalled

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24 Jun 2016
Danielle Moore 1 6/24/2016
History Repeats Itself: A Narration of American Polarization
The last few years have gone by with the media screaming of bipartisanship and
gridlock. This issue is central to American political life, yet very little has been done in
terms of finding the root causes and searching out solutions for compromise and progress.
If one is to look back at recent history, certain tendencies and patterns have led to today’s
political society. It has been found by political scientists that the divergence of parties
was catalyzed in the 1970’s, when civil and social rights were heavily debated and
legislation was rapidly moving in a more liberal direction. These issues allowed for
members of Congress to form a deeply split dichotomy of elite Democrats and
Republicans. Over time, this trickled down to the citizens, who lost the middle ground
were forced to fit into an uncompromising situation. The main cause of political
polarization today was rapid policy changes of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and it is
encouraged today through divided opinion leaders encouraging America to become
bipartisan; once these civil policies become more normalized in society, the United States
has the opportunity to see more options in political ideology.
Lawmakers in the United States have dealt with policy in three separate waves:
the first mostly pertaining to separating national and state power, the second to economic
concerns, and the most current phase to civil and social rights. This third wave of policy
hit America with full force, giving way to movements that cumulated in liberal legislation
such as the Voting Rights Act and the law resulting from Roe v. Wade (1973). This
upheaval angered Christian conservatives and separated the typically liberal minorities,
leading to more conservative Republicans and more liberal Democrats as representatives
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Danielle Moore 2 6/24/2016
of the people (Smith 206-207). These party leaders have passed down the polarized torch
and for many Congressional sessions this divide has only grown.
Over the past few decades, the parties have become smaller and more
homogenous in views considering the increase in issues due to minority rights and
technology (Partisan). This can be traced back to both the citizens and the party elite,
both of which influence one another to become more partisan and therefore less receptive
to the ideas of the other party. One of two events can happen that split the public: the
voter can change their views on policy to match a party, or they can change parties to
coincide with how they believe legislation should turn out (Barber, Nolan 25). The
citizens choose their representative, but it is well known that the party elite choose the
party platform and are able to shift it away from the center, and these ideals will be
reflected in the legislative choices of the representatives (Barber, Nolan 25). Both the
citizens and the electorate have the ability to move their agenda into an uncompromisable
situation, and with the various issues to deal with it has become easy to make each one a
highly polarized battle with little chance of compromise in the middle ground. Today,
Democrats have become more secular and more inclined to help minorities and the poor,
while Republicans are more traditional and believe there should be minimal government
interference with the market. (Partisan). In this, the more liberal camp believe that the
best way for America to progress is to drop religious connections and work to make the
nation an equal opportunity place for all groups, while conservatives hold more
traditional values of meritocracy and are against giving one group an advantage over
other groups. This has created friction in the debate surrounding issues such as
affirmative action, unemployment benefits and stimulus money, and even led to the
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