At the popular Institute of Design at Stanford, otherwise known as D.School, students work on solving real-world problems, from how to save premature babies in undeveloped countries to how to eat ramen noodles without slopping. A recent class challenged students to solve the most intractable problem of all—rekindling bipartisanship.
According to an article by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, voters are more sorted by parties today and parties are more sorted by ideology. The Republican Party has moved right and the Democrats have moved (less) to the left.
The composition of the parties has shifted. Former southern Democrats turned Republican and former Republican African Americans turned Democratic. The growing racial divide widened the ideological divide.
One explanation for polarization is that moderates don’t turn up at the polls and people with partisan feelings do. The middle tries to stay out of the crossfire. In a polarized environment, voters make worse choices and have more confidence in them.
Because of these voting patterns, Congress is more polarized. “Political elites literally hate each other.” Here’s the question: is polarization driven by ordinary voters (representation) or by Congress (influenced by special interests—corruption)?
The more polarized Congress becomes and the fewer the moderates, the less productive that Congress will be. Moderates are people who get laws passed.
Polarization can be mapped by one factor more than any other: economic inequality. The smaller the gap between rich and poor, the more moderate our politicians; the greater the gap, the greater the disagreement between liberals and conservatives. The greater the disagreement, the less Congress gets done; the less Congress gets done, the greater the gap between rich and poor.
These kids from Stanford may have an answer. Or we can wake up and share.