Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tracing Partisanship

Moderates are nearly extinct in the Republican Party.  In an interview today (28.25 mark) on the Diane Rehm Show, Olympia Snowe, a Republican moderate who has just retired from the U.S. Senate seemed to date the divide only to President Obama’s administration.

But a recently published study shows that the partisanship that gridlocks Congress today actually began during the first President Bush, also a moderate Republican, after gradually growing during the the terms of conservative President Ronald Reagan.

It really picked up steam during the so-called Conservative Republican Revolution of 1994 and its subsequent attempt to remove from office a moderate-Democrat, President Bill Clinton.

Present-day partisanship reached its zenith under the second President Bush, a conservative, and has actually moderated under President Obama, considered a liberal but who by many measures has actually governed more from the center.

My take comes from an analysis that was mapped senator by senator, session by session from 1975 through 2012 by two researchers. One is Dr. James Moody a sociology researcher and leader of the Duke Network Analysis Center here in Durham, North Carolina.

He teamed up with research mathematician Dr. Peter Mucha at the main campus of the University of North Carolina, several miles south in Chapel Hill, North Carolina which is part of the same metro area north and east of one centered around North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh (just to be non-partsian.)

To my eye, the analysis, published last month, also appears to reveal that while endangered, moderate Republicans as of 2012 may even be more apparent today than moderate Democrats, a party home to a far greater proportion of moderate voters.

The mapping also seems to reveal that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was far more divisive than the 2010 overhaul of healthcare.  It also shows that during the prior event Congress was more polarized than a previous high in 1910 but fell below that benchmark during and after the latter.

It also revealed to me more about the relatively new discipline of network science which cuts across social and physical sciences to study relationships and interactions in areas like health, culture, organizations, science and politics.

Maybe it just because I am a moderate, independent of either political party, but this statistical and behavioral analysis has certainly given me a much better appreciation of the depth and breadth of political partisanship.

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