Ideology or Problem Solving – Which Will It Be?

A review of
Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats
(Authors: Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins)

Grossman and Hopkins have provided a deep dive into the “symbolic conservativism vs. operational liberalism” phenomenon, also explored a few years ago by Ellis and Stimson. Their main thesis—which they hammer over and over in different aspects of the US political world—is that the Republican Party appeals to voters via high ideological arguments, while the Democratic Party appeals to a variety of groups, promising incremental problem solving.

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Potential Solutions to the Polarization Problem

Originally published 10/31/2018 on Arc Digital

There has been great interest among the chattering classes concerning the degradation of our democracy. The topics by now are familiar: political polarization, media fragmentation, the culture of outrage and demonization, conspiracy theories, election meddling, tribalism, populism, fake news, echo chambers, incivility, and so on. In many respects, these are overlapping and intersecting maladies. But by far the most significant effect of our polarized moment is the diminishing ability of Congress to address national challenges.

Some of the commentary on this issue is alarmist; some is purely analytical. Only occasionally are solutions actually suggested, such as legislative proposals, partisan crusades, or attitude adjustments. Let us evaluate a few of the solutions—though, fair warning: skepticism is merited.

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Health Care Reform and Socialized Medicine

A review of
Introduction to US Health Policy: The Organization, Financing, and Delivery of Health Care in America
(Author: Donald A. Barr)

Democrats will be pushing health care reform for 2020. “Universal” health care is a buzzword that energizes their base, though it remains to be seen whether many independent voters will be persuaded. Some independents, certainly, have doubts as to whether reform would advantage or disadvantage them personally. But almost all independents reason ideologically as well. Most are “conflicted conservatives” who, in widely varying degrees, may resonate to conservative one-liners about big government, bureaucratic inefficiency, stifled innovation, or—most dramatically—socialism.

Donald Barr recounts a century of trying to achieve health care reform in the US, beginning with a failed proposal for national health insurance by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Similar failures reoccurred every decade or two afterwards. When Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to include national health insurance as part of the New Deal in 1938,

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