10 Charts of the Year – Political Polarization

Today’s Chart of the Year comes to us from Peter Orszag, former Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget and current Vice Chairman of Global Banking at Citigroup.

What does this chart mean?

Our political system is so plagued by polarization, it’s difficult to move any legislation forward. In the late 1960s, significant overlap existed in votes cast by the most conservative Democrats in Congress and those cast by the most liberal Republicans. By the late 1980s, the common ground had diminished. Today, it has virtually disappeared.


7 Responses to “10 Charts of the Year – Political Polarization”

  1. I guess Obama, “The Great Unifier” has failed. A leader could solve this. TIme for a new leader.

    • The problem here is far deeper than leadership. Ronald Reagan didn’t fix the problem, nor did Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. One of the primary factors is partisan gerrymandering of House districts. The number of “safe” districts has rose significantly in the last 50 years, which has naturally caused there to be fewer moderates in that body.

  2. Roanld Reagn worked with Democrats and got things done. Bill Clinton worked with Republicans and got things done. Even GW Bush worked with Ted Kennedy on bipartisan legislation creating “No Child Left Behind”, (which local leaders blame Bush for creating, and ingoring Ted’s part). What has Obama really accomplished in a bi-partisan manner? I guess extending the Bush tax cuts, since not even the Democrats have the nerve to increase taxes in this economy. And let’s remember the Bush tax cuts were for everyone. They were set to expire for all taxpayers, not just the rich. But of course, now that we have a class warrior in the Oval Office, we can keep the lower rates for everyone but the “rich”. Well, a good chuck of your neighbors fall into his “rich” category, and while we live more comfortably than our parent did, none of are able to retire early, because so much of income is taken from us. Just think of the jobs that could be created if older workers were allowed to retire in comfort, leaving more openings for the younger wrokers. We could if half of income wasn’t taken from us.

    • It takes two to tango. Congressional Republicans have shown no interest in compromising. The single operating theory that explains Republican behavior since January 20, 2009 is that they are opposed to whatever Obama proposes, just as Mitch McConnell said.

      Look at health care reform. The bill that was passed is essentially a Republican bill, building off of John Chafee’s 1994 bill and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts reform. The idea of an individual mandate is a Heritage Foundation concept. The bill had 300 Republican amendments. There was no single payer, no public option, no expansion of Medicare, no “death panels”. The President waited for literally months for Senate Republicans to work with Max Baucus on the bill. And it got 0 Republican votes, after all of Obama’s work.

      Look at the recent fight over the payroll tax extension. Republicans are opposed to maintaining a tax cut? Seriously? Many Republicans now are talking like they want to raise taxes on the poor — brilliant!

      Ted Kennedy and NCLB is instructive. Democrats were really mad after the Bush v. Gore decision. Did Congressional Democrats try to ruin Bush? No, they put that bitterness aside and worked with him on education, tax cuts, the Patriot Act, and Iraq.

  3. That health care bill is disaster! It’s not lowered costs at all! Costs are going up. Premiums are rising dramatically, unless you work for one of the companies that Obama has waived out of the system. If it’s such a great bill, why do certain entities get exemptions?

    And when the Democrats had the majority, they shut the Republicans out of the process. Everything was supposed to be “open door” and “transparent” but nothing about the health care bill was transparent. Even Pelosi said “we’ll have to pass it to see what’s in it”. And the GOP is supposed to vote that?

    Thankfully, the bill is unconstitutional, and will soon be removed.

    • The waiver program was a temporary measure designed to prevent people from losing their health insurance between now and 2014, when all of the provisions go into place.

      Sure, Speaker Pelosi played some hardball to get the bill passed. Both sides do a much better job of talking “open door” and “transparency” than living it. Let’s not forget, Pelosi’s Republican predecessor once held a vote open for three hours while strong-arming votes for a bill. Do you decry such tactics by Republicans?

      I also note you ducked the main thrust of the post — which noted that Republicans have chosen an obstruction strategy, not a cooperation strategy.

  4. Obama has alienated supporters like me by compromising beyond what any principled Democrat should countenance. He has even offered to cut Social Security–and this in the middle of a deep recession! Any Democrat who does that is not worthy of the name and will get none of my money in this next round.

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