Partisanship in the past

When in comes to current political news, all we hear is that the president caved in to this party, or that party is blocking this bill, or how one party is going to revoke the other parties policies when they take power, or other things along those lines. I’ve only been really paying attention to politics in the past 10 years or so since I become of age, and I know the media only reports what’s interesting at the time.

So, was partisanship always this prevalent in the U.S., or is this something that is more recent? Did politics happen this way in the past, but only the winning side was recording in the history books? What is different between the way parties cooperate now, and how they did 20, or 50, or 100 years ago?

I’m trying to keep current politics out of this, hence why I didn’t mention Republican or Democrat. Please try to keep your answers as non-partisan as possible so this doesn’t get pushed to GD.

Didja notice that when you substitute your this’s or that’s or one’s with actual party names, it’s always the same party that fits in there?
Maybe you need to look harder to find examples to make your question more fair and balanced. Or maybe that’s just not possible nowdays.

I think 9/11 let the crazy out to play, and it hasn’t been locked back in its basement-cubbyhole-of-American-politics yet.

Partisanship has ebbed and flowed. The Civil War was a notable high point, and the period immediately after the dissolution of the Federalist Party was low, though far less, I have heard, than the term “The Era of Good Feelings” suggests.

Yes I did, but that’s just because those were the resent topics in GD and the news stories my friends were talking about on Facebook. Those were the news stories that made me think of the question, and what I was thinking of when I posted the OP. I know that is what is current, but my question was what was the past?

I know what is current, but since I want to stay out of GD, my question is what is the past?

ETA: I was replying to Squink’s post.

I think some of it is due to the way that history is presented so blandly in schools, but partisan politics and political struggles in general have always been just as bad, if not worse, than in modern times. History classes don’t talk about the dirty politics back then so people have the mistaken impression things were better then. They weren’t.

One of the contributing factors to the Civil War was the partisan politics that were played from the early 1800s all the way up until the war started. Instead of both sides trying to compromise and settle their differences, whichever party ended up in power tended to bully their agenda through congress, much like what you see now. Now granted, some of the issues back then (like slavery) were much more polarizing than issues today, but the constant political partisanship tended to increase the hostility on both sides, basically pouring gasoline on the fire, as it were.

History classes in school also tend to give the rather false impression that the founding fathers all happily agreed with each other, which was very far from the truth. There were a lot of arguments in Philadelphia as they tried to hammer out the way that this country would work.

Here’s an example of some early partisan politics at work, showing the types of political rhetoric that went on between the Federalists and the Republicans (then the Democratic Republicans):

So if anything, it’s been toned down a bit in recent years.

In addition to the distorting lens of history, much of the political infighting and wrangling took place in the proverbial “smoke-filled room” and the process was not reported in the press. It is also very easy to forget how the cooks fought in the kitchen during preparation when the meal has been over for a few years.

That is not a fair criticism of the OP. If you look back just a couple years, Democratic majorities in Congress blocked votes on President Bush’s initiatives. Just a few years prior, the Democratic minority in the Senate blocked votes on Bush’s judicial nominees, but, according to the Dems, that was the very same thing that Republicans did to President Clinton’s nominees. Just because the OP didn’t go into the Who Shot John of which party is responsible for what, doesn’t mean that his question is partisan or unfair.

To answer the question, the state of partisanship has been changing a lot over the past few decades, no question. Most famously, President Johnson predicted that after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Southern Democrats would realign themselves out of the party. So, while Democrats controlled Congress for most of the post-war years, that control masked the fact that there were a good number of Democrats who were quite conservative. It was easier to view political conflicts as being based on regionalism (not just conservative Southern Democrats, but also liberal Northern Republicans) rather than just party vs. party. As is plainly evident, Southern Democrats have been moving into the Republican party for some time now, and liberal Northern Republicans aren’t as common anymore, either.

There are other factors as well – think how much easier it is for politicians to posture for 24 hour news coverage vs. your once-daily newspaper. The amount of time members of Congress actually spend with each other today, versus not too long ago, is much less, too. It used to be common for politicians to move to DC after being elected, have dinner with their fellow congressmen, make friends across the aisle; but now there are greater demands to fly back home every weekend to be in their district, year-round campaign events to raise money for increasingly expensive re-elections, and so on.

The OP may be interested to look at this chart, which shows how often the Senate votes on cloture to attempt to end filibusters (which allow the minority in the Senate to obstruct votes on bills or nominees). There is clearly a trend.

More a discontinuity at 2007 than a “trend”

Here’s a chart that doesn’t pretend cloture votes are a continuous function:

Cngr      year        filed        voted        invoked
111    2009-2010        132        84            59
110    2007-2008        139        112            61
109    2005-2006         68        54            34
108    2003-2004         62        49            12
107    2001-2002         71        61            34
106    1999-2000         71        58            28
105    1997-1998         69        53            18

I wonder what happened in 2006-2007 that could account for such a sudden change?
Likely it was some political event or other.

A sudden doubling at the finest resolution available suggests an instantaneous event, not the inexorable progress of some long term trend.

Your query gives me a chance to plug one of my favorite podcasts, Backstory, which did an episode on the history of partisanship earlier this year.

The History Guys’ answer: yes!

Filibusters are just one measure of partisanship. But you should really include all the years on that chart you display from the time the cloture rules were changed, and the trend will be more obvious. But in any case, partisanship isn’t measured only by cloture votes.

There are other measurements, such as party line voting. In the early 1990s, party line voting in the House averaged around 83% or so (cite,cite).

In recent years, it’s been closer to 90%. Cite. The intra-party numbers fluctuate slightly – some years the Dems vote more cohesively, other years the Republicans do – but it is clear the trend is toward more party-line votes. The Senate has pretty much the same numbers.