The Solution to Polarization: Decentralize by Giving States More Responsibility

Politics in the United States is highly polarized.  We easily recognize this at the national level because the parties in Congress are constantly squabbling with each other.  But it is also true in state government as well.  In fact, of our 50 states, only two, Minnesota and Virginia, have split legislative chambers.  All of the other 48 states have both legislative houses either Republican (30 including Nebraska which is unicameral) or Democratic (18).   Also, notice how both individual Democrats and Republicans are becoming more ideological in their views. This, of course, increases the degree of polarization at all levels.

Politics is polarized because there is such a sharp division of opinion in the country on so many basic issues.  The answer is not to try to force unification, which won’t work anyway, but rather to let the states resolve more issues on their own. Consider:

  • The Electoral College. This brilliant invention by our founding fathers aims to elect presidents who represent the nation’s great diversity by obliging them to earn votes across many states and regions.  It can bestow a broad-based national mandate on a president who won only a plurality of the popular vote such as Lincoln in 1860, Nixon in 1968, and Clinton in 1992.  Election by popular national vote would encourage candidates to campaign only in large, voter-rich metropolitan areas and media markets.  A multiparty democracy would result, in which runoff elections would be necessary for the ultimate winner to achieve a majority vote.
  • The pandemic. The attached chart shows which ten states did the best job overall handling Covid, based on the three variables of the economy, education, and mortality, and which ten did the worst.  The best performers were largely small red states (Florida is a large red state) and the worst performers were mostly large blue states.  The leaders largely avoided lockdowns, mask mandates, and kept their schools open.  A national Covid policy, run by the bureaucracy-controlled CDC, would have been a disaster.  Note also the huge red and blue difference in attitudes about the seriousness of Covid.         
  • The likely overturn of Roe vs Wade. The 1973 Roe vs Wade decision by the Supreme Court was clearly unconstitutional.  The likely repeal will return abortion policy to the states (closer to the people) where it will be resolved on a state-by-state basis.
  • Gun Control. Notice the widening gap between Republicans and Democrats on the attitude towards gun possession.  Red states and blue states will decide gun control issues differently as their legislatures see fit.  This is how it should be done.

Conclusion There is huge polarization in our body politic at both the state and national levels.  This polarization exists because there is such a wide divergence of views on so many fundamental issues.  Our constitution has set up a strong central government to perform basic national functions such as providing for national defense, conducting foreign relations, and maintaining a common currency.  But we should adhere more closely to the Tenth Amendment which says that all powers not specifically assigned to the federal government are reserved for the states.  This would go a long way to decentralizing the way public issues are resolved and defusing much of the hostility now directed at the federal government.  Making government closer to the people in this way would go a long way towards depolarizing our nation.

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