Editorial: Until civil conversations can be had, politics will continue decline

Oct. 15, 2013 @ 11:31 PM

As the national gridlock of the federal government continues, it’s easy to see why.

The country is as politically polarized as ever before — at least in the lifetime of anyone living and participating in modern-day politics.

Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill completed a study earlier this year that visualized political polarization by analyzing Senate voting records back to the year 1900.

What did they find?

“We have not seen the current level of partisanship since the early 1900s,” said professors James Moody of Duke and Peter Mucha of UNC in their paper, “Portrait of Political Party Polarization.”

According to Duke Today, the professors examined how each senator voted on each bill in a given two-year period. They then applied statistical methods to group politicians into Democratic and Republican voting blocs based on the similarity of their votes.

“Senators who did not consistently vote with either party were designated as occupying a middle ground outside of either party’s camp,” the report read. “Each party voting bloc, as well as each individual senator falling outside of a bloc, was arranged based on the underlying polarization score. The higher the score, the more disparity there was in voting records.

“The trend is clear: The difference in voting behavior between the two parties increases over time, while the number of senators voting independently from their parties decreases.”

As many have expected, partisan politics are getting worse.

It’s obvious to us as letters to the editor pour in over time. The condemning language of differing opinions gets more harsh, with respect to the other side only decreasing. No longer content with the terms conservatives and liberals, opponents become “pinkos,” “tea-baggers,” “socialists” or “neanderthals.” The rhetoric only grows.

It’s no wonder things can’t get done.

When you paint your opponents as idiots, bigots or extremists, you can never compromise with them, lest it look bad to your constituents.

What’s the answer? Perhaps a viable third party. Perhaps no parties at all.