Washington political polarization added weeks to the debt limit negotiations, and after the leadership of both parties and the branches of government finally found a compromise, the powerful wings of each party complained and made final approval a drama.
But Washington’s polarization just reflects the nation’s. The latest Gallup poll shows that the percentage of voters who have called themselves moderate has declined from 40 percent early in the century to 36 percent now, while the big winner has been conservatives, who have moved from the mid-30s to 41 percent today.
Liberals have also moved up in support, but remain locked in the low 20 percent level, even after an articulate liberal president and liberal Democratic control of both houses of the legislature for much of the last three years.
Hence, voters are twice as likely to describe themselves conservative than liberal, which largely explains why the Democrats, even with control of the presidency and U.S. Senate, could not dictate the terms of the debt ceiling deal – the public is much more comfortable in the camp of budget cutters than tax raisers.