A Visual Illustration of the Decline of Consensus in the U.S. Congress

Sure, American politics has always been adversarial, but this one minute “dancing dots” video beautifully illustrates how much less consensus there is in American politics today than has historically been the case.

Families, businesses, sports teams and religious congregations whose members constantly fight with one another are weaker than ones that can put their differences aside and work towards common goals. Most of us know this from experience. So it is with governments. In America today we live in a country where infighting has become the principal activity of the people who govern us. Compromise is viewed as weakness or betrayal.

It is ironic (but also an important historical lesson) that President Ronald Reagan, the most successful modern conservative Republican President, was an advocate for compromise. He understood that the purpose of politics is governing, and that governing inevitably requires compromise. As he told aides on many occasions, ‘I’d rather get 80 percent of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.” [For more on President Reagan in historical context, click here.]

Isn’t it again time to hold our politicians accountable for compromising to achieve results, to insist that they play together nicely, like we expect our children and grandchildren to do?

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