News / USA

Debt Debate Driven By Polarized US Politics

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (file photo)
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (file photo)

As U.S. political leaders struggle to find a compromise to raise the national debt limit by next Tuesday, voters and analysts alike are blaming hyper-partisan politics for the impasse. Sharp political differences have always been a feature of American democracy, but historically the country has generally found a way to compromise.

Around the country, voters are tired of the debt stalemate in Washington and are urging both sides to compromise.

“Going to the edge of a cliff may be exciting for some people, but it does not make sense for a way of running the country,” one man said. "I think it is almost like a spoiled child, ‘I have either got to have my way or it is no way!,” a woman said.

Some Americans are asking whether polarized politics has made the United States ungovernable.

Democrats control the White House and the Senate, but Republicans hold a majority in the House of Representatives.

Even President Barack Obama expressed frustration in a recent speech to the nation. “The American people may have voted for divided government, but they did not vote for a dysfunctional government,” Mr. Obama said.

But the political battle lines over raising the debt ceiling so the United States can meet its obligations remain rigid.

Many Republicans say the voters who sent them to Washington are demanding they shrink the size of government and will hold them accountable in next year’s election if they fail.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a favorite of small government activists in the Tea Party movement and a candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination next year.

“Mr. President, do not raise the debt ceiling.  They are tired of Washington, D.C. not listening to them and they are tired of how out of touch the politicians are who say we have to continue the spending,” Bachman said.

Many analysts see the debt fight as the latest example of a growing U.S. political polarization, a trend that has been building for decades.

Professor David Lublin teaches government at American University in Washington. “Now the two parties are in fact more polarized, and I think that is largely being driven by our party primary process, where it is increasingly hard to get nominated for one of the two parties if you are a moderate,” Lublin said.

With fewer moderates in both major political parties, finding a sweet spot in the center to forge a compromise on divisive issues has become increasingly complicated.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told NBC News the focus on partisanship has eroded the traditional ability of Democrats and Republicans in Congress to get along with one another.    
“In earlier days legislators would socialize together on the weekends.  They would play poker, they would drink, they would share stories and created friendships that went across party lines,” Kearns said.

Former Republican senator Trent Lott told ABC’s This Week program that newly elected members of Congress seem less willing to compromise.

“I remember when I first came to the House [of Representatives], my attitude was I wanted it my way or not at all.  And over the years I found out that if you take that attitude what you get is nothing,” Lott said.

Lott served for a time as Senate Republican leader and often found a way to compromise with his Democratic counterpart, former senator Tom Daschle, who also appeared on the program.

“You have got to, at some point, put governance ahead of ideology and when that happens we get the best result of good leadership in America,” Daschle said.

Political strategist Matthew Dowd says voters are angry and will hold all parties responsible in next year’s election if Congress and the president fail to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling.

“Basically the country thinks that Washington has become a cesspool of dysfunction and there seems to be a great inability of anybody to sit down and act like adults in the room and solve the problems,” Dowd said.

Public-opinion polls show most Americans want Congress to compromise on the debt issue and focus instead on creating jobs and growing the U.S. economy.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More