Of all of our national holidays, Independence Day is the one most intimately rooted in our common history and shared experience. Yet this year it arrives against a background of polarization, separation, and confrontation in the states and Washington alike. With municipal politics as the occasional exception, the pattern of solidifying agreement within the parties—and widening disagreement between them—is dominating our decisions at every level.
On almost all of our major policy choices, the common thread is that the election of 2012 did not “break the fever” of polarization, as President Obama once hoped it might. Last November, Obama became only the third Democrat in the party’s history to win a majority of the popular vote twice. But congressional Republicans, preponderantly representing the minority that voted against Obama, have conceded almost nothing to his majority—leaving the two sides at a stalemate. Meanwhile, beyond the Beltway, states that lean Democratic and those that lean Republican are separating at a frenetic pace.
Consider a few recent headlines. The Supreme Court decision upholding the lower-court invalidation of California’s Proposition 8 restored gay marriage in the nation’s largest state. It also capped a remarkable 2013 march for gay marriage through blue states, including Delaware, Minnesota, and Rhode Island (with Illinois and New Jersey possibly joining before long). The consensus is solidifying fast enough that 2014 could see several blue-state Republican gubernatorial candidates running on accepting gay-marriage statutes as settled law. Former California Lt. Gov Abel Maldonado, a likely 2014 GOP gubernatorial contender who this week reversed his earlier opposition to support gay marriage, may be an early straw in that breeze.
The story in red states, though, remains very different. Almost all of them have banned gay marriage.
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