Partisanship describes the American two-party political system because it captures how rare it is right now for Democrats and Republicans to vote or support one another’s laws, policies, or appointments. In the fall of 2020, when then-president Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, no Democrat voted to confirm her and only one Republican voted against her. Recently, no Republican in the Senate voted for president Joseph Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, although some Republican senators acted as if they voted for it.
The severe lack of bipartisanship can be traced back to Barack Obama’s presidency, if not before then. During Obama’s first term, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, stated,
The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
McConnell’s quote reinforces the dominance of political parties. McConnell’s goal was not to work with Obama to try and improve the lives of Americans regardless of political party. His goal was to knock the Democrats out of power and put the Republicans in power.
The preoccupation with political party connects to other terms like platform, conservative, liberal, and special interests. When Republicans are in power, their platform tends to favor conservative ideas. Republicans candidates tend to run on a platform of anti-abortion, pro-gun, and limited government.
Democrats tend to have liberal ideas. They run on a platform that appears more inclusive. Democrats are often pro-choice, in favor of some gun restrictions, and don’t think the government should automatically be minimized.
For how the other terms describe America’s two-party political system, think about key political events in the past years and how the terms played a part in their significance. For instance, think about how Democrats tried to appeal to independent voters during their 2020 party convention by inviting Republican speakers.