Good morning, it's Feb. 5, 2021, a Friday -- the day of the week I pass along quotations intended to be inspirational or thought-provoking. This week at RCP, we revamped the website of RealClearPublishing, our producer of original books on politics and public policy, which debuted last year. So, it seemed fitting to quote one of our writers, Neal Simon, author of "Contract to Unite America: Ten Reforms to Unite Our Republic."
When Neal Simon ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, he learned what some of America's most astute political observers had come to realize but were shy about saying aloud: namely, that 21st century U.S. politics -- like politics in the 20th century -- is a closed shop. It is tightly controlled by a Democratic Party/Republican Party duopoly. This theme has been explored in numerous recent articles and books by political reformers, including Greg Orman and Nick Troiano, who have written op-eds for RCP.
Certainly, Donald Trump's presidency heightened the hyper-partisanship and mutual ill-will between Republicans and Democrats that has upped the ante on government gridlock and increasing ugliness in Washington. But the two major political parties had been polarized before Trump came along -- the GOP to the right, the Democrats to the left -- making the absence of a third party in the middle or a vibrant movement of centrist independents an even greater national problem.
"Contract to Unite America" was published a year ago, just after Trump's first impeachment.
Now, the country is about to undergo another one. Nothing that has happened in the past year – not Trump's second impeachment, not the country's maddingly partisan response to COVID-19, not the storming of the U.S. Capitol -- has undermined what reformers such as Neal Simon are saying. Quite the contrary.
Here is what he wrote a year ago:
"Polls show that Americans share my concern. Eight-seven percent view dysfunctional government as our greatest national challenge -- compared to 50 percent in 1990. Democrats blame our distressing state of affairs on President Trump, while Republicans like to condemn House Democrats. But our government was divided and dysfunctional before Donald Trump ever ran for office or Nancy Pelosi became Speaker. Simply replacing Trump, whom I do not excuse for making things worse, will not solve our problems. We have a warped electoral structure that elevates the wrong kind of politicians."
And that's our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.