Partisan politics on the rise in Washington

Collin Yoxall said he was frustrated by the partisan politics he saw in Washington D.C.

“Partisan politics are a part of any Democratic system,” Yoxall, a junior international political science major, said. “The problem is the Republicans and Democrats are too stuck in their own ways to be willing to compromise.”

According to a CNN article, there has been talk about the increase in partisan politics within the government. Partisan politics has resulted in Congress nearly pushing the U.S. into an unnecessary debt default and the national budget in chaos, according to the article.

Although Yoxall was frustrated by the increase in partisan politics, other students were less concerned about the issue. 

Pete Sanborn, a senior criminal justice major, said he believed partisan politics were a necessary part of the political system. Politicians work for reelection, and voters want a representative who supports their party’s views. 

“If an individual is an elected Republican and starts voting with the Democratic Party, there is not much of a chance for that person to get reelected,” Sanborn said.

Adam Schiffer, an associate professor of political science, explained partisan politics began when parties in Washington shifted further apart due to the southern realignment. When the white southerners moved from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, the shift of voters made the Republicans much more conservative and the Democrats much more liberal. 

That shift combined with the fragmentation of today’s media to cause the division of political parties among the public, Schiffer said.

“Individuals can go a whole day hearing news from only one side, and that makes it easy to demonize the other side as an enemy,” Schiffer said.

Fights have existed within the government throughout the history of the United States, but “as far as the two parties battling each other, there hasn’t been anything like this in probably 100 years,” Schiffer said.   

Recently, the government had a partisan battle over increasing the debt ceiling, Schiffer  said. This was a routine procedural matter that Congress has always accomplished without an issue, but this time Congress threatened to shut down the government because the two parties could not agree how to pay for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief budget.

Yoxall  said he thought it was irresponsible for the members of Congress to threaten a total government shutdown based on such a small issue.  He blamed both parties equally for not being willing to compromise. 

Sanborn disagreed with Yoxall that both parties were to blame. The Democrats were trying to cast blame on the Republicans, he said.

“I think that it is irresponsible of the Democrats to chastise a group of congressmen that are just trying to do what their constituents elected them to do,” Sanborn  said.

Schiffer disagreed with both Sanborn and Yoxall. He believed both parties’ unwillingness to compromise was dependent on the issue, he  said. Most Republicans signed a pledge that they would not raise taxes under any circumstances, so Democrats would be more willing to compromise on big fiscal issues.

Even though compromises had been made, Schiffer said, the increased amount of partisan politics put a stop to many agreements. The government had made small changes, but when it came to the more important issues, there were still no solutions.

“The government can make little incremental changes, but there are big problems on the horizon like climate change. While countries like Germany are restructuring their economies to be relevant to the 21st century, the United States is stuck in an older mindset because the government can’t agree with each other about how to change these things,” Schiffer said.

Yoxall agreed that the inability to compromise has hindered innovation, and he believed primary elections were to blame for partisan politics, he said. During the primaries, candidates try to appeal to their bases, and once elected to Congress, members are too scared of offending their bases to make compromises.

Sanborn  also recognized the lack of compromise and thought both parties were backed into a corner, and it was too late for either party to get out of that corner. But he said he believed after the next presidential election, Washington D.C. would change and partisan politics would no longer be an issue.