Division of Democrat and Republican Party members over time.

Division of Democrat and Republican Party members over time.

This plot data comes from the study The Rise of Partisanship and Super-Cooperators in the U.S. House of Representatives by Clio Andris, David Lee, Marcus J. Hamilton, Mauro Martino, Christian E. Gunning, and John Armistead Selden. It’s easy to look at a plot like this and see just how little “working together” our Congress does now, compared to the past. It’s also easy to see that, and realize why we’ve become so dysfunctional. When leadership can’t work together, it’s like divorced parents who hate each other fighting over who gets primary custody of their kid, and their kid just wants to go live with grandma now.

In yesterday’s post, I shared a video of Jimmy Carter talking about the oligarchy in America. He made one extremely poignant comment which applies directly here. Because this model is not sustainable, and it will be part of what breaks the back of stable American democracy. While he was referring to stopping the corrupting influence of money in Congress, this same sentiment applies to the problems caused by extreme partisanship. He said:

“It’s going to take either a horrible, disgraceful series of acts in our country that will turn the public against it and maybe even the Congress and the Supreme Court.” Former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with Thom Hartmann on July 28, 2015

National, Politics

Congressional Partisanship Over Time, Visualized

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Politics

You know, it’s simultaneously humorous and very scary to me how people view me in discussions. When engaging conservatives, I’m apparently anti-religion (I’m not), or communist (I’m definitely not), or just extreme-liberal (I’m most definitely not). Yet when I hold my liberal friends to the same standard of discussion, I’m “hurting the cause” or “not a real Democrat” (okay, this one might be true) or a conservative in disguise. I work really hard to always hear both sides of discussions, and make sure people consider contrary viewpoints, because contrary doesn’t mean the same thing as “wrong.” Understanding where people are coming from when they disagree with us is a core building block of communication and problem solving. And while we may FEEL strongly about our opinions, it’s important to remember that they aren’t rendered into facts through that process.

People, I’m in the middle. I’m more middle of the road than about anyone I’ve ever met. Sorta like an Independent Libertarian, maybe. And I hold everyone to the same standard. When I see folks using hyperbole or false equivalencies to try and make points (badly), I point it out. When I see people being uncivil to each other, I try to be their conscience. And yet, from the middle of the road, you can see just how badly polluted the gutters are. You can’t disagree with someone without being “the enemy,” and you can’t be “the enemy” without being labeled the polar opposite, regardless of the accuracy of that label.

It’s very sad, in the end, because it’s a bad commentary on how polarized we’ve become, and how unable we are to just sit down and fucking talk to each other like human beings. And it’s a god damned shame. The problem is heavily connected to social media, where Facebook, Twitter, and company allow us to enter echo-chambers – isolating us from dissent, and reassuring us of our “rightness” on issues. The reality is, we’re just blocking out the challenges of critical thinking and problem solving by ignoring opposing viewpoints because we’ve grown lazy. We’ve gone so far backwards.

Lost in the Gray

Aside

Lawrence Sucks

This is just a fantastic example of someone with a lot of passion, and no charisma. When I talk to people with opposing views, one of the most important things I stress is that to be an effective communicator, you have to win the hearts and minds of the people who disagree with you. Insulting them, and going off half-cocked makes you look like the idiot, and just energizes the opposition with something to fight against. You win more bees with honey and all that. So, how many people’s minds do you think this guy (or gal) changed?

Current Events, Kansas

Lawrence Sucks (Apparently)

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