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Encyclopedia > Polarization (politics)

In politics, polarization is the process by which the public opinion divides and goes to the extremes. It can also refer to when the extreme factions of a political party gain dominance in a party. In either case moderate voices often find that they have lost power. It may be one of the first steps to a civil war. Politics, sometimes defined as the art and science of government[1], is a process by which collective decisions are made within groups. ... In politics and religion, a moderate is an individual who holds an intermediate position between two extreme or radical viewpoints. ... A civil war is a war in which parties within the same culture, society or nationality fight for political power or control of an area. ...

In recent times, some Americans, such as American Demographics magazine editor John McManus, have seen increasing polarization in the U.S. political system. Some point to Jim Jeffords' resignation from the Republican Party in 2001 because of his feelings that the party was becoming increasingly polarized and that moderate voices were getting shut out. Republicans point to the campaign of John Kerry in 2004 as evidence that the Democratic Party is also becoming increasingly polarized. James Merrill Jim Jeffords (born May 11, 1934 in Rutland, Vermont) is currently the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont and the only Independent in the United States Senate. ... The Republican Party, often called the GOP (for Grand Old Party, although one early citation described it as the Gallant Old Party) [1], is one of the two major political parties in the United States. ... John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts. ... The Democratic Party is one of the two major political parties in the United States. ...

Others, such as Constitution Party analyst Michael Peroutka, take the view that the U.S. political parties themselves are actually quite close in terms of actual policy and party leadership. They say that political rhetoric is polarized in order to create some illusion of policy difference; however, in practice and action, both parties take a similar approach to government. Examples include vast bipartisan and popular support for one side of various supposedly controversial issues; a majority of both major parties in Congress voted to cut taxes in 2001, to authorize use of force in Iraq in 2002, and to ban partial-birth abortion in 2003. Additionally, since 1948, the Congress and the President--whether Democratic or Republican--have shown the same willingness to grow the size of the Federal Government. Supporters of this theory also say that public opinion has not gone to the extreme; rather, both parties have come closer to the center. Thus, for the average "centrist" voter, it is easier to decide which party/candidate is closest to them. The Constitution Party is a conservative third party in the United States, founded as the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 1992. ... Michael Peroutka Michael Anthony Peroutka (born 1952) is a Maryland lawyer, the founder of the Institute On The Constitution and once held a position in the United States Department of Health and Human Services. ... 2001: A Space Odyssey. ... Partial-birth abortion (PBA) is a non-medical term used to refer to some late-term abortion procedures. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1948 (MCMXLVIII) was a leap year starting on Thursday (the link is to a full 1948 calendar). ... In politics, centrism usually refers to the political ideal of promoting moderate policies which land in the middle ground between different political extremes. ...

It should be noted, however, that Mr. Peroutka's is a minority opinion; most Americans and most in the news media see a very real rift growing within the fabric of U.S. society and was shown most dramatically through the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, when the vote was virtually half and half between the two sides. However, it may be argued that those election results merely confirm that both major parties are essentialy equivalent and as such attract a nearly equal number of votes.

Perhaps the most disturbing sign of the schism has been the ominous division of the country into rigid geographic blocs, a phenomenon that has not been seen in America since the days leading up the the Civil War in the 1852, 1856, and 1860 presidential elections.

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  Results from FactBites:
washingtonpost.com: The Politics of Polarization (743 words)
This polarization is highlighted in the job approval ratings of the presidents during the past 60 years when these ratings are broken down by party.
During the terms of Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, the average difference between the approval rating of voters from the president's own party and those from voters for the opposition was about 30 percentage points.
Although overall the president is well liked and has strong approval ratings, the base vote of the opposition party does not see things the same way that the rest of the country does -- and Tom Daschle, Richard Gephardt, Nancy Pelosi and other prominent Democratic leaders find it difficult not to respond to their base.
2418. Polarization, Politics, and Property Rights: Links between Inequality and Growth (325 words)
One strand of research argues that polarized societies find it difficult to reach political consensus on appropriate responses to crises.
Keefer and Knack analyze the effects of inequality in the broader context of social polarization.
They argue that social polarization, whether rooted in income inequality or in ethnic tension, makes large changes in current policies (including those guaranteeing the security of contract and property rights) more likely under a wide range of institutional arrangements.
  More results at FactBites »



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