THE BLOG
11/05/2012 04:21 pm ET | Updated Jan 05, 2013

Why Politics Are Stuck in the U.S.

In this recent TEDx talk in Miami, Professor Peter T. Coleman, Chair of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4) at The Earth Institute explains why politics in the U.S. are more deadlocked and polarized today than they have been since the end of the U.S. Civil War and what our next president and our citizens can do about it.

Research shows that the U.S. government is more polarized today than it has been for 130 years -- and this is particularly evident in the increasing divisions in Republican versus Democrat congressional voting patterns since 1979. This trend is also apparent in the pattern of Red-Blue voting nationally by citizens over the last three presidential elections.

And you probably think, well, yea, that's how it works -- that's how it's always been. It's just the nature of politics

But the fact is that if you look back at voting patterns over a couple of hundred years or so, you see it's not how it's always been, and in fact in the past we enjoyed many decades of effective non-partisan consensus-based problem-solving -- and were actually able to fix problems in this country.

But not today.

Although the world has changed dramatically since 2000, our leaders and U.S. citizens keep voting the same way in the same places -- and the chasm keeps getting deeper. The bad news is this stand-off is happening at a time when our deficit is astronomical and increasing by $4.2 billion a day, millions of Americans are in desperate need of jobs, food and decent housing, and our education system is in a free-fall.

Applying ideas from complexity science, Dr. Coleman explains how the current "attractor" pattern of polarization we are stuck in came about, the crisis it presents, and the window of opportunity it offers us for positive change to be sparked from both above (our leaders) and below (us).