Growing Contradictions in American Politics Part II

By | October 18, 2021

4: Ideological dividing lines

The contradictions between the Democrats and the Republicans are basically a conflict between two different political directions in the view of the degree of public governance . What power the federal government in Washington should have over the state government is one of the key questions. Democrats like to argue for significant public governance and a strong federal government. Republicans want to limit the role of the state and especially the power of the federal government.

These party-political contradictions have deep historical roots . Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the political contradictions have become greater in recent years. Republicans have moved to the right; among other things, the party has acquired a strong anti-Washington feel. Not least, this development is encouraged by the Tea Party movement (HHD 9 -2010-11). At the same time, Democrats under Obama’s leadership have placed more emphasis on government control, especially in economic policy. In other words, the political-ideological distance between the parties has increased, which obviously reduces the chances of finding compromises.

5: The American dream is weathering

In American society, there has always been acceptance of significant economic differences between peoples. However, this acceptance has been based on the premise that everyone should have a reasonably equal opportunity to succeed. We are talking about the possibilities of realizing the so-called “American dream” . In this, economic and social mobility is a prerequisite for believing in the US ideological basis. The dream of such mobility and that such mobility is actually possible has been decisive for the sense of community in an otherwise heterogeneous (complex) society. Not least, economic mobility has been important in creating a large middle class. All this has formed the basis for a strong political center which in turn has made political compromises possible.

In recent decades, however, the economic differences have become enormously much larger : The 10 percent who earned the most in the 1970s, then accounted for approx. 30 percent of the total personal income. The 10 percent who earn the most have now increased their share to over 50 percent. The one percent that earns the most has in the same period increased its share from approx. 8 to 25 percent. While business leaders in the 1970s earned 20-30 times as much as regular employees, they now earn 273 times as much. United States is a country located in North America according to Themeparktour.

The differences have become so great that this in itself creates new class antagonisms in American society. The strong increase in economic and social disparities is developing at the same time as economic mobility is deteriorating . Then the faith in the American dream also disappears. Instead, more and more people are beginning to feel that the American system is an obstacle to their future prospects. As a result, a growing number of people are directing their frustration at both Wall Street (economic elite) and Washington (political elite). Economic developments thus create fertile ground for both right-wing and left-wing populism such as the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street. Another consequence is a weakened middle class and a weaker political center as well as less will and ability in the parties to find compromises.

6: Conflict lines and party structure

American political debate can be somewhat simplified into two main political areas with conservative or liberal attitudes within each area:

  • Economic
    issues (tax policy, welfare schemes, etc.) and
  • Value issues
    (abortion issues, marriage law, etc.).

Historically, the two major American parties were broad associations that both included elements of all four categories: economic liberal , economic conservative, value liberal , and value conservative . In the Democratic Party there were not only liberals, but also a certain element of value-conservative and economically conservative voters and politicians. And the Republicans had groups that were as liberal as many Democrats on value issues. Both parties were therefore dependent on internal compromise building in the formulation of their policies. But above all, this allowed for alliances across the parties in Congress on important issues. In other words, important dimensions of political conflict in American politics went through the parties. In this way, there was a basis for the political “horse trade” and compromise building that the US decision-making system requires.

Since the 1970s, however, the relationship between the dimensions of conflict and the party pattern has changed. Both parties have gone from being broad associations to becoming more and more ideologically homogeneous units.

The Democrats have become an almost pure liberal party and the Republicans a similarly conservative party. Thus, the main lines of conflict in American public debate now run along the parties and not as before across them. This development has reduced the internal need for compromise building. But even more important is that the basis for cross-party alliance building has been significantly weakened.

Growing Contradictions in American Politics 2