With the next president already held in record low esteem, both parties will be tempted to follow the strategy example set by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell during Obama’s presidency: constant confrontation, instead of bipartisanship, to heighten the chance of gaining ground in the next election.
“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off [Obama’s] proposals,” McConnell explained [to The Atlantic, in 2011]. “The only way the American people would know a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan.”
Most voters still tell pollsters they want Congress and the president to work together and get something done, of course. But that sentiment never seems to be powerful enough to overcome partisan distaste for the other side. Political scientists call this “affective polarization” — meaning the two sides just dislike each other more.
Whatever you call it, it produces the central political frustration of our time: political parties that see little reason to cooperate, and plenty of reasons to fight.