Stacey Abrams on How the End of Earmarks Contributes to Polarization

I found it noteworthy that when Stacey Abrams was asked in her NY Times interview whether polarization was an “irreconcilable” problem, her immediate answer was to talk about the end of earmarks. I have written many times (e.g., here) about how certain reforms, such as the end of earmarks, that have enacted in the name of purifying the political process, have perversely contributed to polarization and today’s legislative paralysis and dysfunction. Jonathan Rauch at Brookings has also explained the issues concerning earmarks well.

Here is the excerpt from the Abrams interview:

Q: Is that an irreconcilable problem?

A: We have to restore the incentives for getting past the demonization. There was a through-line from the elimination of earmarks9 to the deep polarization of our politics that has created this stasis. When you have earmarks, you have to work with other people because you can’t get what you wanted unless they get something they want. When there’s no reason to compromise and every reason to demonize, then people are going to go with demonization. In politics the public is supposed to do your job review, and your job review right now depends on how loyal you are to what have been artificially set as your standards.


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