In the aftermath of an extremely politicized Supreme Court nomination hearing, it is difficult to feel hopeful about our government’s ability to effectively function. Without an environment that encourages bipartisanship between parties or processes of good governing, our representatives fail to consider the half of the population that doesn’t agree with their party lines.
In a 60 Minutes interview about his decision to require an FBI investigation, Jeff Flake expressed that if he was running for re-election, he would not have voted for an investigation. The significant pressure from political parties as well as fear of elections overrides the incentives to reach across the aisle or even consider alternatives. In Democracies, there must be a distinction between good campaigning and good governing. Once a candidate is elected, it is the responsibility of that representative to govern all of their constituents, regardless of party lines. The recent election cycles have demonstrated that effective campaigning requires political division. However, we cannot have a government that governs like it campaigns: polarized and vehemently opposed to the other party.
According to a Gallup Party Affiliation Poll from 2018, 44% of voters are registered as independents vs. 26% registered as Republican and 27% Democratic. This statistic is surprising considering the hyperpolarized political environment that pits Democrats and Republicans against each other. However, the reality for many US voters is having political ideologies that exist within both parties.
Although it is difficult to believe that 44% of US voters are registered as independents in the presence of a seemingly insurmountable wall of political differences, it is still possible to create bipartisan legislation. For example, while the partisan politics and public displays of hatred of the other party appeared during the Senate confirmation hearing, and in the comments of live streams, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the bipartisan bill to tackle the opioid crisis, The Support For Patients and Communities Act. The House voted 393-8 and the Senate passed the bill with a vote of 98-1 on October 3rd. This bill is staggeringly bipartisan during a highly politicized and animistic environment.
Bipartisanship is possible. Policies that are partisan and completely opposed by the other party cannot create effective and legitimate change. It starts with voters. Informed voters are effective voters. Visit allsides.com to understand the news exposure for each political party. Then, vote! Pew Research cites millennials’ with the lowest percent of voter turnout. We need to exercise our political voices to influence how we are governed. If we allow ourselves to feel apathetic about political polarization, the status quo will continue. It is up to our generation to expect more from our representatives.