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One of, if not the, most important changes in American political life over the last 30 or so years has been the rise of extreme party polarization. Our two major parties are increasingly ideologically distinct and distant from one another and increasingly willing to abandon long-standing institutional norms and short-term policy compromise in the name of achieving long-run party goals. Efforts to understand why the parties have changed have been largely parochial, looking for explanations exclusively in American politics, history, media, and institutional arrangements. This focus has logic to it. Politics in most other advanced democracies does not feature the same degree of polarization between parties; therefore, the answers for why American politics has gone in this direction seem to lie inward rather than abroad.

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