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I assume the cultural divisions in our country are not new. They have been with us at least going back to the 60s. Why are moderates less effective today than in the past?

One obvious, and probably the most important, variable is the economy. If the economy doesn't change much, when this Nov's election occurs, the unemployment rate will be as high as it's been ON election day since at least WWII. A negative outlook on the economy surely exacerbates other divisions, especially how people view the role of government. So when the economy is slumping, there is less incentive for politicians to compromise. At a time when more compromise is needed there is less of an incentive for it. Unfortunately, moderates are squeezed out during periods when the system is more polarized, as it is now.

Moderates have always existed in both parties and, in the not too distant past, have tended to lead. Politicians always want to get reelected. That’s a given. And genuine cultural divisions have existed for two generations. Besides the economy, what else has changed?

The amount of money now flowing into the system coupled with the current tendency for ideologically pure candidates to attract that money is the death knell for moderates in Congress. In addition, there has been increased use of the filibuster. The filibuster ought to encourage compromise, but it doesn’t. As it’s currently used, it all but guarantees gridlock, further incentivizing political posturing.

When the economy improves, will today’s ideologues become tomorrow’s moderates? Will moderates be able to return to Washington?

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