David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman are spot on:
(CNN) -- As this election season unfolds, we are watching an age-old dream in politics go horribly smash. It isn't good for politics, and it sure isn't good for the country.
President Franklin Roosevelt helped to fire up the dream during his second term in office. Coming off a massive landslide in 1936, he believed that it would be far better for governing if the Democrats became the liberal party and Republicans the conservative one. In the 1938 congressional elections, he barnstormed across the South trying to purge the Democratic Party of several incumbent conservatives. His efforts backfired -- the incumbents won and were sore at FDR -- but the dream became a staple of politics.
In 1950, for example, in one of the landmark studies in political science -- one still read today by undergraduate majors -- some of the best minds of the day argued strongly that the nation would benefit from more ideologically "coherent" parties: that things would be better if Democrats stood firmly for a liberal ideology and Republicans for a conservative one.
That way, people would have clear choices, they would know what they were voting for, and they could count on their party delivering if it were in power. "Shoo out those racially suspect Sunbelt conservatives from Democratic ranks and those lily-livered Northeastern liberals from the GOP. And maybe some of those moderates, too." So the thinking went.
Well, in recent years, we have seen the dream come true. And guess what? It is producing a mess. As each of the parties has moved toward ideological purity, our politics have become ever more polarized, our governing ever more paralyzed. Extremists increasingly run the show.
The entire article is worth a read here.
HT: Scot McKnight