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One important challenge that the United States faces in the second decade of the twenty-first century is a bitter partisan divide. This divide has become evident on a number of different fronts, including debates over the proper role of government in regulating and managing the American economy, foreign policy, and social issues ranging from immigration reform to same-sex marriage. The divide has been exacerbated by a stubbornly stagnant economy and has played out via blogs, social media, and particularly cable television. It has also been marked by the rise of the Tea Party, which has served to shift the Republican Party to the right in opposition to Barack Obama's presidency. Another sympton of the divide is serious legislative gridlock in Congress as well as in state legislatures across the country. As the economic downturn has lowered tax revenues and raised deficits, legislators from the two major parties have taken diametrically opposed positions on how (or whether) to cut spending and raise revenue. While the tenor and the tone of these partisan squabbles are not unique in American history, they still represent a major challenge for a nation still trying to pull itself out of a major economic slowdown.
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