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A Long Division: Political Polarization Is Worse Than Ever, and Here to Stay

NBC News

Sunday, October 19, 2014

With just over two weeks to go until Election Day, the country looks and sounds more like the Divided States of America…

The dominant political story heading into the Nov. 4 midterm elections isn’t control of the U.S. Senate, or President Obama’s approval ratings, or the party that captures the most governor’s mansions across the nation.

Instead, it’s that this country – long known for its combative politics, especially before an election – is more divided today than it has been in decades. And it’s likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

“No question: Politics has become more bitterly partisan and mean spirited as I have seen in 30 years of writing a political newsletter,” says Charlie Cook, who founded the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Olympia Snowe, the former moderate Republican senator, agrees that today’s politics is more divided than it’s been in decades. “Without question, politics is far more polarizing than I’ve experienced in my 34 years in the U.S. Senate.”

But earlier this year, she and a bipartisan band of ex-senators – including former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott – unveiled a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center recommending ways to fix America’s bipartisanship.

Among the ideas:

  • The country should hold a National Primary Day in June for all congressional primaries (to boost voter turnout);
  • All political contributions (even those to outside groups) should be disclosed;
  • Congress should have five-day workweeks (imagine that!);
  • The president should hold regular monthly meetings with congressional leaders (it’s amazing that has to be written down!);
  • Americans ages 18-28 should commit to one full year of service to their communities or nation.

“These proposals are not a magic elixir that will restore America’s body politic to health overnight,” the authors wrote. “Our recommendations are practical and achievable and, if implemented, will be a first step toward lowering the temperature on an overheating, polarized political process.”

KEYWORDS: COMMISSION ON POLITICAL REFORM, COOK POLITICAL REPORT, CHARLIE COOK