• 68°

Money, district lines driving polarization

RALEIGH — Whenever folks begin preaching about political polarization in America, they have a tendency to focus on the symptoms.
After all, the symptoms are everywhere.
It is politicians calling each other liars or shouting each other down. It is cable TV talking heads becoming the proxies for political parties. It is former friends refusing to speak to one another.
Anyone can easily see, in conversation with friends or family, or through exchanges on social media sites, that the political divide has widened, our dialogue about politics has become more coarse.
My wife recently relayed a story in which she left a dinner table after hearing those around her begin tossing around the word “communist” as if Stalin were reborn and headed down Pennsylvania Avenue.
I’m not sure whether any of those involved in the conversation had yet burned down their houses in protest of the new collective.

Of course, we have a two-party system in the United States, and political division and divisiveness are nothing new.
But so often, the implication of today’s political dialogue is that those on one side or the other are either not “real Americans” or that their political views are just a well-disguised means to further their own greed.
Against this backdrop, N.C. State University’s Emerging Issues Institute this week held a series of discussions about political polarization dubbed the “Redesigning Democracy Summit.”
The organizers correctly identify political polarization as a threat to the required political consensus and action needed to address the country’s problems.
As David Brooks of The New York Times has written, today’s politics seems predicated on the unrealistic belief that one political party or the other is going to obliterate the opposing political party and completely have its way.
That unrealistic notion becomes a hurdle to the compromises that have always been necessary to fashion political solutions. But the what and how don’t explain the why.

The two 800-pound gorillas that are so often ignored when discussing the polarized political landscape are money and lines.
In electoral politics, vast sums of the money that fuel seven- and eight-figure political campaigns come from the far right and far left, not the middle.
Is it any surprise that the politicians answer to those who provide the campaign dollars? Is it any surprise that their words become those of the left and right, and that the political middle becomes muted?
The political interests of the middle, particularly the middle-class wage earner, is no better represented at the statehouse. Who is paying their lobbyist? When do they get up and speak at the committee podium?
The lines that dictate political polarization appear on maps of legislative and congressional districts. They are drawn not to keep residents of one region or another together, but to put one political party or the other in power.
The result is safe districts, decided in political primaries not general elections, where more partisan voters elect more partisan candidates.
Our politically polarized world won’t change until the money and the lines begin changing.

Scott Mooneyham writes about state government for Capitol Press Association.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransome

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday