When our elected officials consistently vote along party lines, it makes it increasingly difficult for voters to split their ticket. Why, as an individual voter, would we vote for an individual who is only going to be a lackey for the party? The short answer is we don't. We end up voting for the party we most identify with and this leads to a vicious cycle of partisanship. When our elected officials fail to vote their conscious or vote for what they think is in the best interests of the country and its citizens, the electorate becomes jaded and more likely to vote along party lines and in their own interests.
We have lost independent, strong and courageous voices that vote for what's right -- not for what the party leadership cajoles them into doing. We have lost members of congress willing to reach across the aisle and work in a bipartisan manner for the good of the country. We have lost the art of the compromise which this country has operated under for the vast majority of its existence. The constitution itself was a highly compromised document. President Reagan famously worked with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil who once said all politics is local. Now, all politics is obstructing the other side.
Throughout our history, we have had bitter disputes between different political factions that have even gotten as nasty as today's environment. In today's social media, it can certainly feel that the conversation has gotten nastier. But even during the first couple of administrations, nasty personal articles were often published -- mostly anonymously. What seems different today is the rigid partisanship and lack of common ground (or willingness to even want to find common ground). We're not sure what the answer is but certainly gerrymandering has played a huge part. When districts are drawn so that one party dominates, then our elected representatives fear a primary challenge more so than a general election which leads to increased party obedience. We'll be examing this in more detail in future posts. For now, take a look at some of these electoral maps from past elections as they may surprise you and offer hope for breaking the gridlock: http://www.redwinepolitics.com/syrah/red-stateblue-state