Frequent commenter Andy drew my attention to this WP article on the roots of the shutdown. It touched on a number of topics near and dear to my heart. For example:
Today, there is almost no overlap between the voting behavior of the most conservative Democrats in the House and the most liberal Republicans. That’s in part because there are few moderate-to-conservative Democrats and moderate-to-liberal Republicans left in the chamber.
It also is a reflection of the fact that members from districts that are more evenly balanced ideologically now vote the way their colleagues from highly ideological districts vote. In other words, there is a big difference in the way Republicans and Democrats represent relatively neutral districts.
Today the Congress is more polarized than it has ever been. More polarized than during Reconstruction.
The absence of a center in today’s politics significantly complicates coalition building. “How do you build a coalition from the center out when there’s no one in the middle?” Abramowitz asked. “Reaching across the aisle means reaching pretty far.”
I think there’s a possibility on which more reflection is due: that today’s federal government shutdown was “baked in” when the Pelosi-Reid Congress enacted the PPACA. Major social programs have historically been enacted with bipartisan support. The metaphor frequently used is that the parties join hands and jump. That is extremely difficult in today’s highly polarized climate.
But it’s not impossible. Wyden-Bennett had bipartisan support. It wasn’t rejected by Republicans; it was dismissed by the Democratic leadership. Why? I think it’s because the “Healthy Americans Act” didn’t satisfy enough of the items on their checklist and they felt they deserved a victory and they wanted to continue to be able to run on the issue. They didn’t want to “join hands” with the Republicans to construct a plan with bipartisan support.
Pointing to the adoption in the PPACA of an approach that was first proposed more than a decade previously is begging the question. Today’s Republican Party is on the “all politics all the time” path that New Gingrich put them on. It’s not that Republican Party. The approach selected doesn’t suggest they were looking for Republican support; it just points out how the conversation has changed over the years. And the notion that Democrats were trying to gain bipartisan support by courting Olympia Snowe is even more outlandish. As voted Olympia Snowe so voted Olympia Snowe. She was the last holdout of a cadre of Northeastern Republican moderates. For good or ille she had practically no influence in today’s Republican Party.