by Terry Dunn
Like lots of average, middle-of-the-road people, I sometimes look at our politicians and wonder how we got here. I mean, they are obviously intelligent (at least most of them), educated adults, and yet they act irrationally and like they are still in junior high school.
It doesn’t matter if what someone says makes sense or not, your and their political affiliation determine your response. If they are a member of the opposition, then, by definition, their idea must be ridiculous. And if they are a member of your own party then you are obligated to defend their idea, even if it sounds stupid.
Having given this lots of thought, my conclusion is that they simply have nothing else other than party politics. This is their career. And the only way to “climb the ladder” as a politician is to be a strong party advocate. After all, the Republicans are not going to elect a Democrat Speaker of the House, no matter how qualified or how well he/she works to gain consensus with everyone on both sides of the aisle. Your only chance for a plum assignment is to back your own party’s ideas and hope for the best.
In addition to the career growth aspect, there is another factor. Politicians want to get reelected. There are few jobs where putting in only five years earns you a pension and access to healthcare where their former employer pays 75% of the premium. Plus, there is the prestige of being a member of congress. And if you want to get elected, you need to raise money from the masses.
The sad truth is that most of us in the middle don’t write checks to support candidates. We are not so passionate about the far right or left issues that we choose to part with some of our hard earned cash to insure the election of a candidate that will fight for our point of view. After all, our point of view is moderation. Dull, boring moderation. It is hard to craft fiery rhetoric around being a moderate.
So, it looks like polarization is here to stay. The politicians are incented to be as polarized as possible. Media coverage goes to those with outrageous things to say (see: Trump, Donald) and the opportunities and financial benefits are just too tempting for most.
Unless…the moderates start to write checks and vote in primaries…