Opinion

The Top 10 Reasons American Politics Are So Broken

By Jonathan Haidt

The destructive dynamic of recent years is not the result of one or two factors that can be easily reversed.

By Jonathan Haidt

With Republicans taking over the Senate this week, many Americans are wondering: What now? Some are hoping for more constructive engagement between Congress and the president, now that the GOP might want to try to show that it, too, can govern. But there's good reason to believe that's wishful thinking. The destructive dynamic of recent years is not the result of one or two factors that can be easily reversed. Rather, it is the result of at least 10 trends that have played out over the past half-century. Here are the most important things to understand about how Washington became so broken.

1) The two parties purified themselves ideologically

There was once a time when Republican lawmakers counted a good number of liberals among them, and Democrats enjoyed the membership of many conservatives. Yet now, the two parties are purer – and further apart – than at any time since the end of Reconstruction. The Republicans are more conservative than the Democrats are liberal, but both parties have much less diversity of ideology than they had in the past. You can see that in this chart, which shows where an average lawmaker in each party fell on the left-right spectrum, based on their voting records, in every Congress since 1879. Higher means more conservative, lower means more liberal.

Read full article as published in The Washington Post

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Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership.