Although bipartisan cooperation and compromise are essential for badly needed fiscal reforms, congressional voting statistics point towards a deepening partisan divide in Washington.
Last week National Journal said its voting ratings for 2011 in the Senate showed that for the second year in a row – and only the third time in the last three decades – no Democrat had compiled a record to the right of a Republican, and no Republican had a record to the left of any Democrat.
House voting, too, showed great polarization. National Journal found that only six Republicans last year compiled what was considered to be a slightly more “liberal” voting record than the most conservative Democrat.
“Believe it or not, it wasn’t always so,” John Aloysius Farrell writes in the publication. “In 1982, when National Journal published its first set of voting ratings, 58 senators – a majority of the 100-member chamber – compiled records that fell between the most conservative Democrat (Edward Zorinsky of Nebraska) and the most liberal Republican (Lowell Weicker of Connecticut). Now it’s zero, zip, nada.”
Farrell notes that the House and Senate “are in a state of near-paralysis over the country’s finances.” But last year’s voting patterns, he writes, offer little cause for optimism: “Polarization remains endemic. Lawmakers march in lockstep with their party. Heretics are purged.”
Among the factors cited by analysts in the article: Shifting demographic patterns, racial issues, lingering grievances over political tactics, less socializing among members of Congress, redistricting deals, voter complacency and news media that place less emphasis on objectivity and accuracy than in the past.