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Political Polarization

This post by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post shows that the 111th Congress was the most polarized of all of the congresses.

In an earlier post I wrote about language and politics, and explored how political polarization plays into recent rhetoric. I think Klein’s article shows just how polarized Washington has become. I don’t know if it’s a “top-bottom” effect or the reverse, but it’s interesting to note  that the most polarized party was the Republicans. Of the Democrats, Klein says:

Democrats…were pretty well within their historical norms.

This graph shows the polarization of each party. It’s fairly striking, but it seems to make a lot of sense when you examine the rhetoric from the Republican party and the grass-roots. I can’t help but wonder how a legislature can function when the political distance between the two controlling parties is as high as it is now. Of course, we’ve seen Republican proposals like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act fail, and many items on the agenda for the Democratic party failed miserably with Republican obstructionism. It seems as if there has been little cooperation and compromise as these past two years have dragged on.

The most interesting bit of news, and one that falls into political language, is how Republicans have been attempting to redefine rape. Georgia Republican State Representative Bobby Franklin proposed a bill which does the following:

To amend Titles 16 and 17 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to criminal law and criminal procedure, respectively, so as to change the term ‘victim’ to the term ‘accuser’ in the context of a number of statutes making reference to circumstances where there has not yet been a criminal conviction; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

This is all partisan and ideological bluster, but I think it’s noteworthy to think about how the Republicans have been trying to change the definition of rape and introducing laws to curtail abortion such as the proposed law in Ohio restricting it to when the heartbeat of a fetus is first detected.

I’m inclined to see this as an assault on women’s rights. As far as I can tell, most of the legislation from the House that has attempted to redefine rape as well as the Georgia state law, have been proposed by men. As anyone with keen powers of observation knows, men don’t have the biological capacity to get pregnant (and I’m fairly sure we lack the mental capacity to deal with pregnancy–just being honest).

I find it disheartening that there is so little female representation on this topic primarily because it deals with issues of a woman’s body and reproductive rights. It’s probably why there’s been so many draconian proposals put forth by Republicans in the recent month, who feel empowered with their recent electoral gains.

I don’t think that any of the federal laws have a chance of passing, but some of the state proposals might. I don’t know enough about politics in Ohio to comment further on that, but such laws seem highly unfeasible at the national level. I’m inclined to think that these are nothing more than political stunts to pander to the base, but it’s disturbing; furthermore, I think it’s a symptom of the deep political divide in this country.

Jon Stewart’s cries of “BE REASONABLE!” are more direly needed than ever before.

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