Ideology, primary elections, primaries, extremism, partisanship, political science, congress


American Politics | Political Science | Political Theory


This paper serves as an in-depth look at the role ideology plays in modern America, and uses the primary electoral system as a mechanism through which one can examine ideological shifts in politicians and the electorate. The evidence gathered indicates that primary elections are breeding grounds for increased ideological extremism as a result of the more radical nature of politically engaged voters, the only group who on average take part in these elections. As a result, only the most ideologically dogmatic candidates move on to the general election and thus potentially into office. The effects this has upon policy and American democracy are significant, as radical politicians have proven less willing to compromise with opponents or moderate their views, contributing to contentious gridlock in Congress and growing public discontent. The mostly moderate American electorate has thus been slowly eroded by ideologues to become increasingly polarized, displaying that in contemporary America, ideology serves to harm institutions and civil discourse rather than bolster them.

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