The Partisan Trap


Srinath Somasundaram

Congress has been in a partisan gridlock this year more than ever.

by Srinath Somasundaram, Opinion Editor

After the recent passing of John McCain, a war hero of the Vietnam War and five-term senator of Arizona, many memorialized him for his strong opinions and his willingness to reach across party lines to achieve goals both in Congress and in the minds of the country’s populace. His death has been marked by more than a few political commentators as the end of bipartisanship in America.

Even everyday people are recognizing that these days it seems like our country’s leaders do not get enough done in government because of the partisan gridlock we hear so much about; more often than not, each congressperson’s vote on a specific issue can be easily predicted by just knowing of which party they are a part. While the government still passes hundreds of laws each congress much of it being ignored, almost every successive Congress has been less productive, measured by the number of bills that are made into law, than its predecessor.


The nation’s values have changed as politicians and leaders often prioritize safe voting on party lines in an effort to secure re-election over enacting legislation. The problem isn’t endemic to one party either; many times both parties are to blame for legislative hiccups. Just this year, the federal government shutdown when the Senate could not overcome a Democratic filibuster until Senate Democrats reached an agreement with Republicans to debate the DREAM act in the future.


More and more of this congressional dysfunction reflects a societal transformation that Americans have made, albeit a slow one. In today’s world, sensationalism on both sides, from the Antifa movement to Alex Jones seems to create a gaping hole between two sides, which a few decades ago were both mostly centrist. Though this may seem at first what we should do, to increasingly separate ourselves from extremists, we often fail to realize that in doing so we grow farther from the other side both as human beings and as political thinkers ultimately creating a climate of which these characters continue to profit, one which is completely divided along party lines.


While it may be easy to scapegoat politicians who continue to fall into their own inescapable cycle of partisanship that is Congress, we often forget that we, in fact, continue to elect and re-elect our own leaders. We decide who represents us, and while it is important to prioritize our own political stances when voting and advocating, our policies do not mean much unless they become real, enacted legislation. And for this, we, as a community of Americans, must come together to escape the trap of partisanship to make bipartisanship and working together the norm rather than the exception.