A cacophony of voices fills the House Chamber as Speaker Pelosi announces the passing of Article II, ending a day of tiresome debate. The final vote is 229 to 198, with only three Democrats breaking party lines- an almost completely partisan vote. With weeks of hearings culminating in a momentous vote, one would expect an outbreak of cheers and groans filling the chamber- and yet only silenced applause ensues. The atmosphere is bleak, the outcome predictable, and the country more divided than ever.
It was only a number months ago that a historic impeachment vote was held, revealing a new degree of partisanship in American politics. In today’s day and age, partisanship—that is, extreme loyalty to one’s political party— grips many of our representatives at all levels of government. Party-line votes are increasingly common, making progress more difficult to achieve than ever.
Yet I believe such partisanship is essential to our politics as well as our democracy. In a nation founded upon ideals of freedom and liberty, it is of great importance that we have choices within our democracy. A lack of competition between parties would inevitably lead to a single-party system in which the goals and outcomes of democracy are undermined. As Lee Drutman of Vox puts it, “Partisan conflict is necessary for democracy, because one-party politics is not democracy. It’s totalitarianism.”
America’s social fabric has been put to the test multiple times throughout history; take for example, during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. The controversial topic of racial segregation and African-American rights ignited a national debate, splitting the nation into two polarizing groups: “us” and “them.” Yet polarization, however, yielded the largest voter turnout rate since 1900, with millions exercising one of their fundamental rights in a democracy- voting.
As exemplified by the high rates of voter engagement in the 1960s, partisanship can drive people to engage more in politics and is a leading force behind historic cultural shifts in America.
With our political parties becoming more polarized than ever, it is inevitable that progress will slow and new bipartisan legislation be harder to pass. Yet our founders talked not of the efficiency with which governments should work, but of a system in which all voices are heard- whether that be through an hours-long day of filibustering or a quick 20-minute vote. With millions of citizens represented by a few hundred officials, moving forward will be slow and difficult. But isn’t that how meaningful progress has always been made?
It’s time we accept that the great partisan divide will be rooted in our society for as long as we are a democracy; choices, freedom, and autonomy are the lifeblood of our nation. Partisanship isn’t a threat. A system of one-party rule is.
Sena Chang is a musician, poet, and writer. In addition to writing poetry related mainly to her Asian heritage and Kafkaesque scenarios, Chang is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Pandemic of ‘20 Project. There, she seeks to give a voice to Tokyo’s youth through creative writing and other mediums of art.