A perennial complaint of the chattering class is that the lack of competitive U.S. House seats contributes to supposedly unprecedented partisanship in Congress.
Those critics will make much of the Cook Political Report’s conclusions that only 90 of 435 House districts will be competitive in 2014, down 45 percent from 164 competitive seats in 1998. Competitive seats have steadily declined since that time.
But the statistic also shows why the existence of competitive seats is not synonymous with bipartisan harmony: 1998 was the year the U.S. House voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. As we recall, partisan tensions ran rather high throughout that event.
Countless examples of hard-fought partisan battles can be found throughout our nation’s history when allegedly genteel prior Congresses served. The ongoing battle of ideas, even with the political tensions engendered, are not a detriment to democracy, but an asset.