Politics is a word used by many people, regardless of their educational background or gender. It is an essential part of American life. Even though it has never been popular among the masses, political parties continue to exist in various forms. In our modern era, politics has grown from being just an institution of the middle class to a social responsibility of every individual. Politicians who are elected from one of the two major parties in our country represent the will of the people. As such, they are generally elected because they have popular support within their districts.
Politics has evolved over time into what we see today. There has been a constant evolution towards more polarized parties and candidates. A consistent liberal/ Conservative divide has pervaded American politics since the election of our first president, George Washington. A strong majority of Americans fall into this progressive/ conservative category. A further division is between progressive Democrats and moderate Republicans. The polarization of our politics has been a gradual process that began after the election of our first black president and continues today.
Today we live in a political system where politicians are elected through a complex system of voting and party registration. At the same time, independent voters play an important role in ensuring that the representatives are voted in and out of office. Because of these two forces working together in our democratic form of government, politics has become polarized along party lines. A strong majority of citizens who identify as Republicans or Democrats fall into this political spectrum.
The reason for polarization in American politics is easy to see. The two major political parties each lean toward a distinctly different ideology. One party stands for fiscal responsibility and a smaller government with lower taxes while the other stands for smaller government with higher taxes and fewer social programs. One party is pro-life and opposes abortion rights and the other is pro-choice. These rigid ideologies have resulted in citizens of every political stripe having distinct political views.
A new study by the Pew Research Center draws attention to the changing political ideologies in America. The two most pronounced changes were seen among whites and rural residents. Among whites, there was a gradual move away from the traditionally right-wing Democratic Party and towards the center-right Republican Party. Conversely, over the last ten years, the number of rural residents who identified as Republicans has been growing at an even faster rate.
Another change in American politics has been seen among the religiously affiliated. While it was once the norm for most people to identify with a particular religious group, now over half of all adults say they are not affiliated with any religion. Among that group, an increasing number are considered to be unaffiliated or “unaffiliated” with both parties. This represents an important change in the makeup of our polity where in the past a person could be fairly sure which political party they would align their political beliefs with.
One of the greatest forces behind the growth of the “unified public opinion” over recent decades has been the growth of the “free market.” The advent of the regulatory state, sustained lower interest rates as a result of the global economic crisis, globalization, and technological advances all contributed to an environment that has caused markets to become less localized and more open to competition. As this process has expanded, political power has declined because the public has become more powerful and the political system has become less efficient. For instance, in the developed world there has been a tendency towards concentrated power within the political system. Because of this concentration of wealth and political power, corruption has flourished and policies have been ineffective in terms of providing services or goods that people need.
In contrast, a decade ago the opposite trend was apparent. Citizens supported a strong state to serve their needs but were unwilling to hand over their money to political parties because they felt that politicians are primarily there to serve themselves. They wanted an independent state to make better decisions regarding social welfare. While this may appear to be a simplistic observation, many of the issues facing Canada today are a product of this trend. Fortunately, the emergence of non-partisan politics has resulted in citizens accepting arguments from both sides of the spectrum and resulting in a vibrant and competitive economy.