A grand canyon in US politics

Courtney Rice explains how the middle ground has vanished as Republicans and Democrats become more polarized

The World Today Published 7 December 2018 Updated 9 November 2020 3 minute READ

Courtney Rice

Senior Programme Manager, UK in the World Programme

For a good century and a half, US politics has been dominated by two parties, the Republicans and Democrats. These parties have been at odds since their formation, but the rhetoric and policies of recent elections suggest that the US political system is now fractured, perhaps irrevocably so. How did it happen that the parties and their voters became so polarized that the centre ground is all but eliminated? It is worth recalling some history to understand how this tribalism took root.

The policy lines dividing the parties have been stable since the 1970s. Democrats are overwhelmingly pro-choice, pro-healthcare, pro-gun-control and pro-regulation of business and the environment. Republicans would in large part be identifiable by their fiscal conservative, pro-life and pro-second amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – stance, as well as their strong support for law enforcement and the military.

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