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There Isn’t More Political ‘Polarization,’ There’s More Government

Written By : Warner Todd Huston
November 23, 2011

Ron Fournier of the National Journal has committed the same mistake in political analysis that far too many others on both sides of the aisle make. He thinks, like many do, that there is somehow more “polarization” in Washington today than ever. Like all the others, he’s wrong. There isn’t any more than there’s ever been.

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He then leaps to the claim that the political system is “broken.” It really isn’t.

Fournier goes on to make an even more egregious mistake assuming that this “polarization” will cause the rise of a third party.

All of this, he and others seem to think, is a result of the increased distance between Republicans and Democrats which, in turn, has caused out system to go off track. It is the extremist theory of the American political system, the idea that the far left and the far right (and by that people in the Old Media like Fournier only mean the far right) have caused Washington to self-destruct.

This puts the locus of the problem in the wrong place. In fact, the increased left/right divide is a symptom, not a cause of our political troubles. The cause is that government has stolen so much power unto itself and the stakes are so much higher than they’ve ever been that the intensity of the political fight has taken grown to new heights. High stakes causes high tension, to be sure.

The fact is we’ve always had as much “polarization” in politics as we do now. Anyone that knows the hate and vitriol that was a driving force during the 1800 election, or the days when Andrew Jackson was president understands the viciousness that inundated our politics. The hate that Lincoln faced later was another example. Well, examples are legion.

The thing is, politics wasn’t so all consuming and important to the common American in those past days of vitriol. Americans could have a good brawl about politics, but move on. They did as often end up hating their neighbors simply because they were of the other party as we see today. The reason for that is that government now invades every last little minute of our lives. Government has stolen far too much power unto itself and the passions are much more consequential.

So, the solution isn’t to “fix” our system or the parties. The solution is also not to create a third party.

In fact, there is no third way that could arise. The GOP has already taken on the small government mantle — though it has been uneven in its practice — and the leftist Democrats have already become the European-styled, non-traditionally American, big government side of the fight. There is no consequential position a third party could take.

So what is the solution? Return to our small government roots. Get government out of our lives to the best degree possible. Eliminating regulations, slashing government agencies, firing government employees, this is the answer. We need to make government like it once was, less involved in our everyday lives.

Do that and you’ll see politics returned to the sport that Americans can find some interest in every other year but other wise aren’t as passionately interested in. Then you’ll see the “polarization” take on a much less troublesome aspect in our lives.

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