Contemporary polarization creates “parallel universes”

One of the most unfortunate side effects of the contemporary form of political polarization (partisan “sorting” where all conservatives are Republicans and all liberals are Democrats) is that we’re now living in what essentially amounts to “parallel universes”:

Even in an election year, the current dysfunction in Washington reflects a worsening partisan divide that has created what amounts to parallel political universes seemingly unable to comprehend or deal with each other. …

“It’s worse now than it’s been in years,” said Darrell West, the vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “Our leaders are deeply polarized, and ‘compromise’ has become a dirty word.”

Indeed. I agree that this is why “compromise” has become so out-of-fashion of late. Back in the 1950s, there were liberals in both the Democratic and Republican camps, and conservatives in both the Republican and Democratic camps. Thus, partisans could find like-minded ideologues to compromise with in the other party. In other words, Democrats and Republicans could find common ground because the conservative Democrats could pair up with the conservative Republicans to support policy objectives and the liberals in each party could do the same.

Nowadays, however, there’s pretty much no one in the other party that sees the world in the same way that you do. So compromise has become more difficult. Who do we compromise with when virtually everyone in the opposing party has a worldview diametrically opposed to your own?

As I’ve written about before, my hunch is that our taste for compromise will return only when some new issue emerges on the political landscape that will create an ideological rift in the current party structure, leading to new ideological constituencies for the two major parties.

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