The midterm elections were probably the root of the intense political polarization which continues to this day. While the two-party American system always had quibbles and disagreements, the midterm elections demonstrated the utmost divisiveness among the parties and a scorched earth strategy to bring each other down. The far-right conservative Republicans heavily engaged the media to portray questionable facts and attempted to tarnish Clinton’s reputation instead of attempting to win based on the merit of their policy (Moss and Thomas 2012, 284). This inherently led to a sectional realignment of the electorate and increased party parity.
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More Americans than before began to be polarized based on their party’s alignment and ideology, causing a social divide as well. This became more exacerbated as Clinton and Congress became locked in a budget debate, causing a government shutdown. Both parties, but particularly Republicans, sought to manipulate the political system and endanger the American economy and its citizens to achieve ideological goals.
The attempt at Clinton’s impeachment and the 2000 elections significantly pushed apart the Democrats and the Republicans. The impeachment process was seen as an attack on the president, a continuation of the grueling midterm campaigns from before. Although morally challenging, Clinton’s offenses were not strong enough for impeachment as viewed by many Democrats and a majority of the country as Clinton was both personally and politically popular. The Republican leadership in Congress was intent on destroying Clinton and portrayed his behavior as highly immoral and criminal.
The crisis of the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was further divisive. It was a close call election, with Florida being in contention and numerous instances of vote manipulation such as incoherent ballots, faulty equipment, and even racially-based voter suppression. The Republican party pushed against a manual recount and eventually, the conservative-led Supreme Court declared Bush the winner without letting the recount finish for more accurate results (Moss and Thomas 2012, 317). The Democrats felt that the party and their candidate were denied justice, and the Republicans were not listening to the will of the people, with their leadership significantly withdrawn from realities.
Due to these events and subsequent polarization, there has been a tremendous effect on politics continuing to the modern-day. Parties continue to be strongly divided on issues, rarely choosing to cooperate on a vital issue affecting the country. Meanwhile, the far-right ideologues have adopted the strategy of taking the government hostage through budget negotiations. In fact, because of these situations, a compromise leads to the party utilizing such tactics receiving more of what it wants.
Party polarization has led to a reduced dimensionality of politics. Issues that were largely independent of party politics began to be pulled in as part of political ploys. While some polarization has existed in Congress since the 1970s due to sincere ideological disagreements, the political-strategic behavior used to win elections and push through radically divisive policy has changed beginning with the Clinton era (McCarty 2014).
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McCarty, Nolan. 2014. “What We Know and Don’t Know About Our Polarized Politics.” The Washington Post. Web.
Moss, George D., and Evan A. Thomas. 2012. Moving on: The American People Since 1945 (5th ed.). London: Pearson.
Stanton, Martin N. 2016. “’Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?’ America’s Post-Cold War Leadership and the Bush Doctrine After 9/11.” In The Bush Leadership, the Power of Ideas, and the War on Terror, edited by David B. Mcdonald, Dirk Nabers, and Robert G. Patman, 173-192. London: Routledge.