Blogs » Democratic Economic Talking Points » What Keith Poole Really Said About Political Polarization:


The Oracle claimed that Keith Poole said the recent political polarization started in 1980 and it was caused by the Republicans. This is what Poole really said it's just a little bit different story:

"The beginning of the modern trend to greater polarization began with the breakdown of the three-party system in the 1970s. For almost fifty years the United States had a three political party system (late 1930s to early 1980s). In Congress all three parties easily formed coalitions with one of the others against the third depending on the issue at hand. The northern and southern Democrats united to organize the House and Senate and thereby seize the spoils due the “majority” party. The northern Democrats and Republicans united to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the “conservative coalition” of Republicans and southern Democrats united to block liberal economic (and in the 1970s, social) policies.

The demise of this system began with the assassination of President Kennedy. President Johnson was able to do what Kennedy was unable to do – push fundamental civil rights legislation through Congress. This was followed by President Johnson’s 1964 landslide victory over “extremist” Barry Goldwater that produced a liberal northern Democratic Congressional majority for the first time since 1936. This destabilized the Democratic coalition. Democrats in the 89th Congress no longer required southern support to pass many of the expansive federal programs that are so much a part of our current political debate. These programs along with other redistributive programs initiated by the federal courts – mandatory school busing being the most conspicuous – led to a polarizing backlash in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The effects of this backlash were blunted by Watergate, and the Republican Party did not fully recover its footing until the 1980 elections. The old southern Democratic Party has, in effect, disintegrated, and with it the disappearance of the second dimension of congressional voting. Race has been drawn into the first dimension because race-related issues are increasingly questions of redistribution. The end result is that the Democrat and Republican parties have become more homogeneous and are now deeply polarized. The moderates are gone and we are left with a polarized, unidimensional Congress."