The Partisan Partition

You may have caught political analysts and sworn frenemies Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein on the Daily Show on June 3 discuss their new book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. The book talks about the divide among politicians in America and how today’s congressional behavior differs significantly from years past, specifically due to the Republican promise of thwarting the US government under President Obama using whatever means necessary. The idea is that, come November, Republicans will point at the President, exclaiming, “See? This man has done nothing to help YOU, the voters!” It’s a really sly move since there’s really no way that Democrats can easily or simply explain away this strategy during an election season. Especially when you factor in the fact that President Obama’s latest speeches have been written at an 8th grade reading level due to a dwindling electorate average IQ (or so I assume).

Last month, Pew Research Center released a report that explores a drastic increase in “partisan polarization” in recent years. According to the report, self-described Democrats and self-described Republicans today now average 18 percentage points different from one another on a questionnaire of 48 values, almost twice as different from one another as they were back in 1987 (see chart below). This basically means that Democrats differ more ideologically from Republicans today than they did 25 years ago. However, whether this increase is actually significant seems to vary among political scientists and pollsters.

Chart: "Widening Partisan Differences in Political Views: 1987-2012"

There are other factors to consider. For example, the general makeup of the two major parties is shifting. Today, Republicans are twice as likely to consider themselves “conservative” than “moderate,” while Democrats are equally likely to label themselves “liberal” as “moderate.” Members of the Democratic Party represent a wider range of political ideals, from moderate to ultra-liberal, while the true colors of the GOP range from moderate-conservative to ultra-conservative. The Pew survey revealed that nearly three-quarters of Republicans are dissatisfied with their own party’s ability to support “traditional positions” on issues; in contrast, 58 percent of Democrats feels that way about the Democratic Party.

Another notable statistic suggests that divides among people of differing demographic measures such as gender, religiosity (it’s a word, look it up), level of education, and income have remained relatively stable since 1987, while the percentage point difference between Republican and Democrat has risen steadily (see chart below).

Chart: "Partisan Gap Grows While Other Divides Are Stable" by Pew Research Center

The survey also looked at the difference between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views toward certain issues. Some of the more substantial leaps in partisanship include environmental concerns, with a 5 percent difference in 1992 and a 39 percent difference today; immigration, 4 percent in 2002 and 24 percent in 2012; and government scope, 6 percent in 1987 and 33 percent today. (Ironically, in the category of “political engagement,” Republicans and Democrats have remained almost completely consistent over the years compared with one another, with a 4 percent difference in 1987 and a 5 percent difference in 2012. That pretty much says it all.) The largest gap between Democrats and Republicans involves the social safety net. One of the agree/disagree questions in the survey asked whether the “government should take care of people who can’t take care of themselves.” In 1987, 79 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans agreed; in 2012, those numbers are 75 percent and 40 percent. (Try not to be shocked that 60 percent of Republicans feel that the government shouldn’t help those who can’t help themselves.) In other words, the percentage-point gap more than doubled itself in 25 years, with the most drastic divide beginning in 2007 (also not surprising).

So, are we more partisan than we were 25 years ago?

According to Pew Research, we are. And if you asked your average voters…what might they say? That Americans of differing party affiliations disagree on issues more often than they agree? That those rednecks in South Carolina are trying to push us back into the ’50s? That the heathens in San Francisco and Boston have lost sight of any morals they ever had to begin with?

Of course we disagree on those fronts. But we all support our Armed Forces with every flag on every porch across America. We typically consider the United States to be the best country on the face of the earth comparatively, regardless of its many flaws. We all balk at the thought of being labeled “un-American.” However much we mutually resent our faulty, slow-moving, constantly-conflicted political system in Washington, we recognize that this republican, capitalist system is the best option we’ve got. Somehow the notion that American kids are getting fatter and dumber than the rest of the world’s kids doesn’t make us love the USA any less than we did yesterday. We all, in our heart of hearts, seek to preserve America, though we each have our own ways of how this can be accomplished, of course. And, when it comes down to it, we are all genuinely proud to be American.

Personally, I wonder where all the fun would be in a system that weren’t so partisan. 😉

The 6 Best Moments of the Santorum Campaign (in No Particular Order)

I was eating a boxed lunch when my phone buzzed.  It was a notification from the Huffington Post app, alerting me of a breaking story.  “It can’t be,” I told myself over and over again as I, trembling, Googled the news to confirm.  Sure enough, on Tuesday, April 10, at 2:07 PM EST, Rick Santorum announced that he would be suspending his campaign for president of the United States.

Though discouraged and heartbroken, I could not help but let my mind do what it does best and run through a montage of Rick Santorum’s road to the nomination.  To be sure, it hadn’t been easy.  It was a long, tough, strenuous, murky, frothy ride.

So, to commemorate Santorum’s suspended candidacy, I have put together what I deem the six best moments of his journey, from being the butt of a Dan Savage joke (literally?) to losing the Iowa Caucus to winning the Iowa Caucus.

1. Republican Presidential Primary Debate: Florida

A gay soldier asked whether, if president, Santorum would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  Santorum, being Santorum, essentially said no, clarifying: “And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give [gays] a special privilege to—”  To what?  Obviously, he intended for Americans to let their dirty little minds fill in the blank, because he couldn’t bring himself to finish that sentence.  (His kids were watching.)

It was a proud moment for marriage-defenders and homophobes everywhere.  And everyone else confirmed that Rick Santorum just genuinely doesn’t like gay soldiers due to the fact that they are clearly less preoccupied with taking shrapnel to the ass than taking…anything else to the ass.

2. The Iowa Caucus

Santorum approached the Caucus with about 10 percent in the Ames Straw Poll and “underdog” written all over his sweater vest.  The night of the primary, tens of dozens of Iowans went out to the polls.  He received 24.5 percent of the vote.  As did Mitt Romney.  So, Romney was declared victor and was then cruelly uncrowned as Santorum was announced as the real winner of the Caucus.

But whatever happened to the remaining 51 percent of the vote?  Well, turns out, 51 percent of Iowan voters didn’t want Santorum or Romney to be the nominee.  So, congratulations, Santorum: more people wanted you than wanted Romney…but most people didn’t want either of you.  Ah, pluralism.

3. A Slur, Misunderstood

Santorum (matter-of-fact, out of context): “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

[CUE PUBLIC OUTCRY AND MEDIA ATTENTION]

Santorum: “I didn’t say ‘black people’, I clearly said ‘blah people’…”

Media: “What? ‘Blah people’ isn’t even a thing.”

Santorum (defensively): “Blah people is too a thing!”

Media (fed up): “No, it’s not. You’re just racist.”

Santorum (desperate): “No, you’re the racist!!”

4. Republican Presidential Primary Debate: New Hampshire

Santorum posited that “the reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees.”  But how can that be?  “Well,” Santorum continued, “a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion.”  And just like that, Rick Santorum cleared up what has baffled political scientists through the ages—there aren’t enough workers because women had abortions!  And that’s actually a really great point—why hadn’t anyone else brought that up?

Because at the time of the inception of Social Security, the US had a 6 percent infant mortality rate, physicians performed an estimated 800,000 abortions a year (not to mention back-alley procedures), and around 80 percent of women supported birth control.  By contrast, today around 82,000 abortions are performed a year.  So maybe that’s why nobody had thought of the abortion-leading-to-the-downfall-of-Social-Security thing…but Rick Santorum proved his awe-inspiring mathematical and logics skills in one fell swoop.  And just like that, he was just one logical fallacy closer to suspending his campaign.

5. Allegations of Obama’s Snobbery

While addressing a group from Americans for Prosperity in Michigan, Rick Santorum accused President Obama of the worst possible offense: “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”  Rick Santorum was referring to the liberalism of universities, and how they “indoctrinate” their students.  Many people lashed out at this comment, arguing that it was ludicrous that anyone could oppose higher education for all.

But let’s stop for a minute and consider what the idea really is here: Obama is a snob, and Rick Santorum just wants to educate the voters on that issue.  Plain and simple.  Obama is educated, liberal, elitist, (half) white, Christian (depending on whom you ask), political, and wealthy.  Santorum isn’t all of those things!  Santorum is all white and he’s conservative!  More to the point, do we really want a snobby president?  Santorum didn’t.  In fact, Rick Santorum is so un-snobby that he suggested that not everyone should have the chance to go to college.  A vote for Santorum is a vote for an un-snobby America.  Catchy.

6. Santorum Talks Menstruation

According to Rick Santorum, female soldiers aren’t fit for the front line because they are an emotional roller coaster, which would logically mean that female battalions would have to make sure to roster women that are all on different cycles so that they always have enough people on the field, because that would suck if everyone’s cycle got synchronized, and everyone’s too PMS-y to fight.  Santorum was not being sexist.  He was simply concerned that women on their periods are too emotional to remember why they’re fighting.  It’s really just a gaping hole in our Armed Forces if you think about it.  (Just don’t think about it too hard.)

So those are six moments that stood out in the Santorum presidential campaign.  There were many others, many other shining stars out there of moments that hold places deep in my heart, but I can’t write forever.  America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and a nation where anything is possible.  Here’s to hoping that Santorum will embrace his American spirit within and try again soon.