When I was growing up in a small town in Oregon, the motto was always God, Country and Family. Political affiliation fell to the bottom of the list below community and favorite sport teams. In fact, I grew up always believing my entire family were Democrats. I mean they all supported John F. Kennedy and Bobby too. Some 40 years later, though, I learned everyone in my family but me was a Republican. I think back then, everyone seemed more moderate and more center on the issues. When we discussed politics, we talked specifically about the issues and being a “D” or “R” really didn’t come up. Plus when my much OLDER siblings became voting age, Republicans were actually more big tent and liberal than Democrats. Republicans became less inclusive when LBJ signed the Equal Rights Amendment and the Dixiecrats fled from the Democrats and into the open arms of the Republicans.
Why I bring it up is that prior to the 1980’s, the parties seemed to worked together and at least tried to accomplish the peoples’ work. Sure there was plenty of back and forth, but somehow they often found the middle ground by compromising. Depending on who was in power at the time, the decisions may skew right or left, but it was a moderate decision. (Personally, I believe that the truth is hardly ever pure black and white. It’s usually found somewhere in the gray area.) Back then, if the decision skewed hard right or left, every election provided an opportunity for the pendulum to swing back and forth until the middle ground was found. Ah the good old days.
From what I remember, it all started to changed in the 1980s. The Moral Majority was finding its voice and was actively nurtured by President Ronald Reagan. George HW Bush didn’t seem to be as supportive (perhaps that is why he was just one term) and it seem to regulate the extreme religious right a bit!
That was the beginning of the great divide, but the real polarization started in the early to mid 1990s when Newt Gingrich perfected his personal attacks on Bill Clinton and got his house members to sign the Contract with America. Politics suddenly became much more about character assassination and party affiliation and less about working together for the good of our nation.
I know that political leaders want to remain employed and they try to achieve the highest level of power by electing more members from their party. But it’s one thing to bicker internally, and force your agenda. It is quite another if that is your single goal. When a D or R win becomes more important than working on behalf of the people and national security, the process becomes not only ineffective, but down right dangerous. (I personally feel that 911 was due to infighting and not keeping their eye on the ball.)
Evangelicals really became a powerhouse voting block with George W Bush. Starting when he was running for Texas Governor, he masterfully used Evangelicals for all of his campaigns. This powerful voting block really had one goal — defeat Democrats at all cost. And they became very good at it!
US politics became even more divided with the election of President Obama. The extreme right was fired up and ready for a fight. Unfortunately, the right is so good at gutter fighting that the pendulum that usually swings back and forth from the right to left — this time got stuck on the right! So much so, that we elected Donald Trump for President of the United States. Democrats and moderate Replications were crushed by the extreme right.
So…how do we get back to working together? I don’t think anyone knows and that is the really scary part. Can we ever work together again? Politicians don’t even try. Those in power use it to their advantage to stay in power. Both sides of the isle will use the divide to generate enormous funds and firing up their base. This is a lethal cocktail for any new comer trying to unseat an incumbent — regardless if they are a D or R. So the old guard remain in power. The other really dangerous aspect of it, is it seems that the voter is more concerned with a D or R win and not Cyber warfare or the character of he politician. Ethics do matter. Cronyism doesn’t matter. Corruption, bribery, morality just doesn’t seem to matter any more. Just a D or R in the win column.