After the formation of our country, it didn't take long for political parties to begin. By the time John Adams was leaving the presidency, the Federalist Party created by Alexander Hamilton and the Democrat-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson was already being formed. Over the next hundred years, the Federalist Party disappeared, the Democrat-Republican Party separated into Jackson an Democrats and Whigs, and the Republican Party reappeared in the mid-1850s as the anti-slavery party.
Over the course of the country's two centuries, many political parties have been created, rose to prominence and faded into history. The Democrats and Republicans finally started dominating American politics. This domination and the polarization that has come with it has finally brought us to where we are, now.
The two-party system creates a divided national government that has little incentive to work together. Although the bi-partisanship of the past is often magnified to make the current situation appear worse than it is, the parties have grown farther apart as time passes.
Although the electorate expects the two parties to work together for the good of the country, the polarization has made it more difficult for Senators and Representatives that want to be re-elected to work with the opposition party.
The Tea Party movement over the last six years has illustrated the danger of moving toward the middle when it comes to the Republican Party. If a politician is not conservative enough, the Tea Party runs a more conservative person against them in the primary. The threat of having to face a primary challenge makes many current Republican politicians stay as close to their base as possible.
Although the Democrats don't have a Tea Party dogging their steps, they do have to balance the wants of environmentalist allies against unions and other special interest groups. Pandering to the base is a time-honored, if foolish, tradition in American politics.
Prior to the November mid-term elections, the Democrat Party had control of the Senate, while the Republicans held control of the House of Representatives. The presidency, of course, has been held for six years by a Democrat. The split control of the chambers of government have created a situation where neither of the chambers will agree with the other.
If a Republican bill from the House gets presented to the Senate, and the Majority Leader allows it to be voted on, the majority of Democrats ensured that it would fail. If a bill passed the Senate and went to the House, the Republican majority would make sure that it did not pass the House. Between the polarization and split chambers, the government was getting nothing done.
The latest election, however, put Republican majorities in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate. After the new Congressmen and Congresswomen take their seats in January, the Republicans will be able to pass the legislation they want. If President Obama wants to veto it, he can, but the veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
Although many Americans won't like the fact that the Republicans are in control of both Houses, they now have the majority to get things done in government. Neither party has been willing to set aside partisan politics nor gridlock for the last six years. The American public has grown tired of the situation and they made their feelings known during the November election.
Congresses low approval rating, the lowest it has ever been, is a direct result of partisan infighting that has characterized the Obama presidency. Although it is easy to say "a pox on both their houses" and allow the politicians to pander to their base while not being held accountable for the overwhelming problems that the government is dealing with, that course is very short sighted and will bring us quickly back to the same state of affairs that we just got out of.
Until the moderate members of both parties are willing to temper their partisanship with significant efforts to "reach across the aisle" and work together, the base of each party will dictate policy. This course of action has had far-reaching and detrimental effects on national politics for too long. Identifying yourself as an American first, interested in solving the problems that affect us all should be more important than ingratiating yourself to the loudest members of your respective parties.