While paging through Pew's best data visualizations of 2014 (it's awesome), I came across what I believe to be one of the best and most revealing charts about the state of American politics. Here it is:
The chart, which comes from Pew's amazing political polarization project, shows how partisans of both parties have grown both increasingly unified amongst themselves and increasingly far apart from their partisan others over just the last 20 years. As recently as 1994, seven in 10 Democrats were more consistently liberal than the median Republican. As of 2014, it's a whopping 94 percent. Same goes for Republicans; 64 percent of GOPers were more consistently conservative than the median Democrat in 1994 while 92 percent are today. In addition, "the overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10 percent to 21 percent," according to Pew.
To me, this chart is so important -- particularly in a week where a new Congress arrives in Washington -- because it reveals that the polarization of our elected officials isn't some sort of "only in Washington" thing. The increasing partisanship of Congress is a direct reflection of the increasing partisanship of the country. After all, that's who elects these people to Congress, right?
So, when you hear people decry the partisanship of their elected officials in Washington, don't believe it. We have the Congress we want -- even if we aren't totally honest with ourselves all the time about what that is. And, we get the results -- not many -- from our elected officials that you have to expect when you have a country as polarized as ours.