America 2015: Hope for any political progress?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series America 2015

US Capitol Dome dividedReflection and divination mark the turn of each year. Reflection on the year drawing to a close is a December ritual, followed by January prognostications of the twelve months ahead. This week, we’ll do a mix of both—using some striking stories from 2014 to think about the year ahead.

Today, it’s politics.

Can we hope for any political reconciliation and progress in 2015?

In December, the 113th Congress narrowly lost the title of the “least productive” legislature, according to Pew. Productivity is measured by how many new laws are passed and how many are substantial changes. The 113th was in the lead for the least productive, but a burst of last-minute activity saved it. Will the 114th Congress be more or less productive?

Political polarization hit a record high in 2014—Democrats and Republicans are now more ideologically divided than at any point in the last twenty years, reports Pew. In 1994, Democrats and Republicans were not that far apart. Now, they are separated by a huge chasm.

Are Republicans or Democrats a “threat to the nation’s well-being”? In 1994, only 17% of Republicans saw Democrats as a threat; now, 36% view Democrats as a threat to the country’s well-being. Antipathy is mirrored on the other side: 27% of Democrats today view Republicans as a threat to the nation, compared to only 16% twenty years before.

Perhaps the biggest political story of 2014 with consequences for 2015 is the Republican takeover of both houses of Congress. A united Congress will be an active one, attempting to push through the conservative agenda. Obama will likely use his veto pen to stop conservative progress, while wielding executive power to single-handedly make sweeping changes.

Do you predict that the new Congress with be the “least productive”?

Do you hope for political reconciliation and progress in 2015?

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