Gabriella Kovalchick is a rising senior, majoring in Politics and International Relations with an American Politics Concentration

This post is the final one of this season of From the Field.  If you have not yet done so, read this brief post introducing Unstable Majoritieswhich includes not only a background on the book but also some amazingly helpful resources.

For our final book in the Politics Seminar, the subject moved towards a growing problem in the United States political scene. In Morris Fiorina’s Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting & Political Stalemate, Fiorina addresses the growing phenomena of polarization looking at U.S. history, other countries, and the 2016 presidential election. Taking time to lay foundational knowledge, this book was similar to our previous book in that it was accessible to individuals in and outside the field of politics. In response to this book and our discussions in class, while I often am pessimistic about our current political climate, I was ultimately convinced that there is hope for our system because we are resilient.

There are many dilemmas discussed in Unstable Majorites, but a primary one illustrated in the text is the overreach of political parties. Fiorina provides a simple definition stating, “By overreach, I mean simply that after it wins control of an elected institution, particularly when it wins control of all three elected institutions, a party attempts to govern in a manner that alienates the marginal members of its electoral majority” (93). Leading up to overreach, we are seeing a growing population of independents. Our current political parties are not representing the public, leading to party bases that encompass more extreme ideologies, and independent voters swinging between parties. This large population of independents primarily interacts with important elections, leaving the base supporters interacting with the rest, continuing the dilemma of parties not representing the people. However, in light of this book and class discussions, this dilemma is known, so it is just a matter of how we address it.

A key point I have taken away from Fiorina’s Unstable Majorities is the impact civic knowledge or lack thereof, has on our current system. Underlying many issues illustrated in this text is whether people know how to interact with the government. In the case of the growing population of independents, campaigns are shifting to target hot topics that sway independents (Chapter 6). People do not necessarily know how to respond to this tactic we have seen with overreach, many of these hot topics are not addressed while individuals are in office, so people need to learn how to look beyond the loud parts of politics. These findings underscore the importance of civic education, which has been a recurring theme in the course.

Although not a point with which I explicitly disagree, Fiorina surprised me by asserting that Trump could have a positive role in change. He suggested, “…Trump might play a positive role as a de-sorter, someone with the potential to disrupt the sorted parties that underlie much of our current political discontent and possibly even begin the construction of a new electoral coalition” (219). It is hard to look at politicians, especially Trump, as a figure of positive change in our political system. However, I can say that he has pointed out many flaws in our system, causing more individuals to call for positive change.

As I mentioned earlier, I always found myself being very pessimistic thinking about the current state of American politics. However, in light of class discussions, I think Fiorina has illustrated with historical comparisons that what we are dealing with is not new (Chapter 9). I have grown to see that we are resilient in working through these times of unstable majorities, and with more public outcry, there are more chances for change. What good does it do to not be hopeful? Even if the government does not explicitly care for the population, people are working every day to bring about justice and change. As an individual, I can continue to advocate for education in the hope that people will gain more hope in our system. It may be complicated, but there is hope that things will get better instead of only worse.


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