Reduce Polarization

The American public is divided today, it seems, over almost everything. It doesn’t matter whether we’re discussing economic policy or foreign policy or social policy or immigration or racial issues or reproductive rights: conservatives will disagree with liberals, Republicans will disagree with Democrats, “red states” will disagree with “blue states.”

Political polarization is more intense, and our resulting politics certainly nastier, than most of us can ever remember. There are many reasons for this. The social, political, and economic divisions that came to define the Trump era is one. Other reasons include the rise of identity politics, growing religious diversity, growing racial and ethnic diversity, decreasing trust in a usually deadlocked Congress, decreasing trust in the Supreme Court, more of us living increasingly in politically like-minded communities, widespread gerrymandering, lower journalistic standards, the dissemination of untrustworthy political information. And then we have the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter.

South Carolina Women in Leadership believes that cooperation and respectful conversations can help decrease partisan tensions. That the other party isn’t always wrong. That we can disagree on some issues and still respect the other person. That we can find common ground on certain issues. That saving our local newspapers will help readers focus on their communities instead of turning to political partisanship to decide their political choices. That people working together can make The Palmetto State a better place to live and work for all citizens. 

 A study by the Political Parity program, a nonpartisan platform that aims to elevate the number of women in Congress and state capitols across the country, bolsters SC WIL’s belief that cooperation and respectful conversations can help decrease partisan strains. The study, titled “Sex, Bipartisanship, and Collaboration in the U.S. Congress”, found that “women are more likely than men to value and contribute to a collegial work environment. In times of gridlock, obstructionism, and inefficiency, we shouldn’t underestimate the role that such collegiality and comity can bring to the legislative process.”

Women in Congress “deliver more federal spending to their districts and sponsor more legislation than their male colleagues,” the study found. But perhaps even more importantly, having more women in Congress “can send a strong signal to the American public – and perhaps to potential candidates – that women’s presence on Capitol Hill contributes to making the political arena a somewhat more civil and pleasant place to work.”

And then there is the matter of simple justice and democracy. Electing more women “brings to political institutions a greater sense of democratic legitimacy,” the study found. This “democratic legitimacy and simple justice that more women in Congress would bring to the political arena…are important in their own right…”.

We agree, and we’re working to make democratic legitimacy and simple justice a fact at all levels of government.

It’s time to begin.

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