And it is true, the parties seem more polarized than in a very long time. It HAS been worse in the past, notably the period leading up to the election of 1860 and an unpleasant time known as the Civil War. That time too reflected two wildly different views of society and the role of government, so that compromise, the lifeblood of governance, became impossible.
But are these simply the rough-and-tumble of two parties contesting for power? Or are these more deeply-held beliefs? Perhaps some of both. But at the national, and perhaps the state level, it does seem that the parties hold totally different philosophies of government, how it should operate, and whom it should serve.
- Democrats believe in the greatest good for the greatest number. Republicans say they believe that too, but only if it benefits corporations and the wealthy, whom they call "job creators".
- Democrats believe that government belongs to all citizens and should serve all of us. Republicans believe that benefits for wealthy elites benefit all of us, eventually.
- Many Republicans believe in being armed to the teeth, with any and all weapons a person can afford. A lot of Democrats like guns too, for hunting, target shooting, and home defense, but don't believe in armed anarchy.
- Democrats believe that women should make their own reproductive choices, and that abortion is a personal moral decision, not that of the government. Republicans believe government should prohibit women from making these choices. (The reversal of the usual roles in what government should and should not do is ironic, and noted at length by many).
- Democrats believe in a higher tax structure for the wealthy and lower for the middle class, or a progressive tax structure. Republicans complain that the wealthy pay too many taxes, and the poor too few.
- Democrats believe in making voting easy. Republicans believe in making voting hard for people they don't agree with, under the pretense of "preventing voter fraud". Unless of course it is one of their own caught committing vote fraud.
I could go on and on. And there IS more than a little sarcasm here. Not all Republicans, nor all Democrats, believe all of these things, either way. But there is more than sufficient truth that these ARE the kind of differences that make compromise so hard in Washington.