Consequences of Partisanship in Legislative Leadership

Topic: Government
Words: 2507 Pages: 9


The bipartisan system is one of the defining features of the United States government structure. Nevertheless, the review of the literature reveals that the interest in political partisanship – a type of bias connected to political views in connection to parties – has not been high before the last few decades. Currently, the notion of partisan ideology is approached from many sides with a mix of political science and psychology. As a result, a negative view of partisanship is formed, and a variety of studies consider its impact on government bodies, Congress in particular. As researchers investigate the outcomes of partisan political thinking, the question of how to eliminate or reduce this approach to politics remains unanswered. One of the suggestions discussed in the present paper is Christian statesmanship, a moral leadership approach that is rooted in such values as patience, resilience, wisdom, and peacemaking.


Partisan leadership seems to be at the center of any discussions surrounding American politics. The bipartisan system of the United States is one of the country’s defining political features. Thus, the attention to researching partisanship in the US is substantial, resulting in a detailed, although possibly incomplete, analysis of all aspects of the system. Partisanship is viewed through the lenses of political science as well as sociology, psychology, and other disciplines that look for connections between belonging to a party and behavior. Thus, the exploration of such topics as partisan leadership in the effectiveness of the legislative government branch takes up a large portion of studies.

The history of partisanship is well documented, and the studies outline an interesting and rapid progression toward division. Thus, a question of whether another approach, such as Christian statesmanship, may be necessary to improve the current framework. The subsequent investigation into the history and current state of research leads to the discussion of partisanship’s effectiveness and potential outcomes for government bodies and US residents. It can be argued that the modern trend toward developing an extreme partisan identity goes beyond mere political differences and affects legislative bodies’ ability to operate quickly and unanimously.

Literature Review

To understand the modern state of research surrounding partisanship, one has to review the history of interest in this subject. According to several sources, the view of partisanship evolved with the researchers’ application of various disciplines. Older literature suggests that political science focused primarily on the political parties’ role in supporting the democratic society. However, the research was not vast, and parties as a topic remained at the edges of the authors’ interest in politics (Muirhead & Rosenblum, 2020). Therefore, one can find scarce evidence of research specifically focused on the effect partisanship had on the legislative branch. Holmberg and Oscarsson (2020) argue that the lack of studies is tied to the less apparent ideological divide between parties that went beyond the political sphere. While party members could disagree on many topics, and it often led to discussions and conflicts, the research does not seem to show a deep investigation into this relationship.

Later, the growing field of political science included new approaches to the concept of partisanship. Abramowitz and Webster (2016) find that the attention to partisanship had risen since the 1980s when the idea of partisan identity slowly started emerging as the central notion for studies. Bankert (2021) highlights that this transformation happened due to the inclusion of such fields as cognitive and social psychology. Thus, one’s party identity became a link to their other identities, beliefs, and values.

At the present time, the research appears to focus on partisanship identity and its negative influence on the performance of government. As noted above, since the 1980s, members of opposing parties have become more hostile toward opposing views, and it has led to increased party loyalty (Abramowitz and Webster, 2016). Andris et al. (2015) and Mayer (2019) argue that partisanship has reached its peak in the last decade, with the extreme political and ideological divides between Republicans and Democrats. While some studies suggest that bipartisan votes still exist in Congress, such issues as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic have proven to be polarizing to the extent of the party members completely disagreeing and stalling any fruitful debate (Hsiehchen et al., 2020; Weisel, 2021). As a result, the studies show an increased interest in examining all aspects of such hostility.

As stated previously, political science has expanded its use of such fields as social psychology in investigations. Partisanship also became a topic that the researchers started to analyze from a psychological viewpoint. The research by Snowe (2013) and Lindstädt and Vander Wielen (2014) demonstrates growing attention to the possible outcomes of partisan ideology on the effectiveness of the legislative activity, although they present mixed results. Nevertheless, the majority of identified findings agree that partisanship currently plays a substantial role in people’s lives and political decisions (McGhee et al., 2014; Snowe, 2013; Andris et al., 2015; Marshall & Haney, 2021). Thus, a number of studies are also concerned with the future of partisanship in the government and everyday citizen lives.

From the comparison between older and newer sources, it is apparent that the research on partisanship in the United States has increased significantly. Moreover, it went through the changes discussed above, including the introduction of new disciplines and approaches to exploring partisan identity. As an outcome, political science research contains a variety of articles on partisanship, especially on its effects on legislation, government systems, and relationships. The role of partisanship in affecting legislative processes has increased, as indicated by Andris et al. (2015) and Bankert (2021). Following this rise in partisan identity, the research adjusted by examining the potential factors that form such identities and how they interact with other spheres of life. For example, the study by Zmigrod et al. (2020) explores the link between partisanship and cognitive inflexibility. The authors suggest that inflexible nonpolitical information processing can be related to one’s extreme partisan identity (Zmigrod et al., 2020). This study is an example of research that goes beyond political science and into the field of psychology to connect the different identities that a person assumes.

However, the focus remains on the impact that partisanship has on legislative effectiveness. In fact, the collected studies demonstrate that this topic is one of the biggest concerns in modern scholarship. The division of power, previously described as an “invitation to struggle,” is now perceived by many researchers as detrimental to the outcomes of political debate (Muirhead & Rosenblum, 2020, p. 95). Papers on negative partisanship are abundant, indicating a shift towards criticizing partisan identity.

The outcomes of these works do not always agree – there exist a plethora of conclusions about partisanship’s effect on legislative decisions. For example, Lindstädt and Vander Wielen (2014) argue that performative partisanship plays a role in the results of votes, and it depends on the proximity of an upcoming election. Party members change their votes in order to gain support from their party or acquire political power but do not show consistency in voting outside of the election time period. Mayer (2019) supports this conclusion, stating that partisans often realign their opinions with those of the party, which leads to the lack of productive debate in decision-making. Thus, in these works exists a strong suggestion to reduce the influence of partisanship or introduce ways to limit its negative impact.

Other studies argue that while conflict between parties has been increasing, there remain some issues in which members work together. Dunning (2022) finds that such concerns as conservation transcend the political divide, although the author notes the role of symbolism, economic influence, and legacy as factors that contribute to agreements (Dunning, 2022). Andris et al. (2015) support this position, finding that some representatives are open to cooperation between parties. Nonetheless, the studies do not contest the overall negative role of partisanship in legislative effectiveness. Arguments against partisanship are prevalent, and no open support for growing partisanship can be found in the studies.

The most compelling findings are of the negative impact of increasing partisanship on the performance in Congress. Several studies conducted from 2013 to 2021 agree that hostility inside the legislative system has increased in the last fifteen to twenty years. Snowe (2013), Abramowitz and Webster (2016), Andris et al. (2015), and Marshall and Haney (2021) are equally concerned about the outcomes of this change. According to this research, the problem of partisanship has been escalating and continues to affect how Congress members act.

It is interesting to consider that these studies focus on different parts of the issue. Snowe (2013) assesses Congress’ effectiveness and comes to the conclusion that such divisiveness lowers the members’ ability to communicate opinions separate from their party. Abramowitz and Webster (2016) talk about the impact of partisanship on decisions in proximity to elections. Andris et al. (2015) show that bipartisan agreement is a rare occurrence in the House of Representatives and that the situation continues to shift towards non-cooperation. Lastly, Marshall and Haney (2021) look at how partisanship affects foreign policy and conclude a presence of congressional decline as Congress’ power is given to the president. The abundance of evidence explains why the negative outcomes of partisanship are often at the center of studies. It reveals the long-term problem inside the system and its growing effect on all parts of the legislative process.

The Role of Christian Statesmanship

The literature review reveals that the state of partisanship puts legislative activity in a problematic situation. Thus, one suggestion to mitigate the outcomes of this issue or to possibly eliminate it whatsoever is the introduction of Christian statesmanship into the legislative apparatus. First of all, it is vital to point out the basics of Christian thought that support this idea. The New International Version of the Bible will be used as a source for the present paper. The Bible shows that Christianity teaches peacemaking – “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel” (Prov 15:18). Thus, statesmanship rooted in morality and Christian thought has counterposed its views to partisanship. Partisan ideology, as found by research, creates a divide between people and influences their opinions outside of the political sphere. A Christian-inspired view of politics takes a different approach, uplifting people to seek collaboration and avoid conflict.

Furthermore, while partisanship is stated to drive debate, the research shows that it leads to stifling conversation. Christian statesmanship, in contrast, inspires patience for one another – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:2). In leadership, it is believed that gentleness can be more effective than partisanship which divides people into groups. As found in the Bible, “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Prov 25:15). Therefore, members of Congress who base their decision on Christian morality instead of following their party’s ideology may be more likely to look at previously divisive issues as a team. As Kollman and Jackson (2021) note, the lack of agreement inspired by partisanship makes people refuse to listen to those with opposing views. This behavior does not align with the moral standpoint of Christian statesmanship – “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone” (Col 3:13). Moral leadership can provide people involved in the legislative system with a framework for united decision-making.

The Policymaking Process

As noted above, there exists an abundance of research on partisanship that considers its effect on policymaking. Divisiveness brought on by partisan ideology leads to people disagreeing on issues to the point where no discussion is possible. Therefore, the original idea of a bipartisan government structure – to foster debate – is unfulfilled. The outcome of poor communication and non-collaboration is the failure to solve problems quickly and effectively. Here, partisanship creates communities that are disinterested in the success of the law-making process as a whole, pursuing their own agenda instead. However, some type of communication exists in the increasingly tense body of Congress, as Andris et al. (2015) find. Some issues based on the long history and legacy bring people together, but other pressing issues remain polarizing despite needing a quick solution. The scarcity of mutual interaction brought on by partisanship is incompatible with effective legislative performance.

Unanswered Questions and Questions for Future Research

The current literature covers a wide range of topics surrounding partisanship. The research includes sociological, political, psychological, and other viewpoints. Thus, finding holes and missed questions is challenging – the scholarship suggests a certain level of agreement on the negative impact of partisan ideology. Nevertheless, some questions remain untouched on the academic level, including the potential underlying reasons for partisanship’s increasing role in Congress. A large number of studies consider the link between partisanship and the state of Congress. However, fewer articles look into the underlying factors that lead to the rise of partisan identity in society. As a result, less attention is given to the ways of reducing the presence of partisan influence on the decision-making process and the legislative apparatus.

Therefore, the first potential question is how to reduce partisanship. This question is multi-faceted – for instance, it can refer to the political identity of citizens as a whole and their perception of political and other issues from the viewpoint of their partisan identity. At the same time, hypotheses can be more specific than this, aiming to find a solution to reducing partisanship in Congress. Here, the voting process can be taken as the basis for an investigation, as it is already the center of many studies, and there is much evidence on the effect of partisans’ actions.

Another unexplored area of scholarly research is the potential of Christian leadership in combating the adverse effects of partisanship and its place in guiding the adoption of progressive laws. As discussed previously, Christian statesmanship offers a framework that opposes the rise in partisan identity due to its core principles. Therefore, the second question for future research can be practical in nature. One may ask whether the implementation of Christian statesmanship leads to an increase in legislative effectiveness.


The concept of partisanship has gained recognition in political science research in the last few decades. Historically, it was a subject to which researchers did not pay much attention, as it was seen as a part of the democratic process. However, as the divide in parties’ ideologies went beyond the political sphere, new approaches to research were introduced, especially in the last fifteen to twenty years. Presently, studies use a variety of methods and disciplines to tackle the question of partisanship, including sociology and psychology. One of the most prominent inquiries is the impact of partisan identity on legislative effectiveness. Research demonstrates that partisan thinking leads to division and non-collaboration. As a result, people responsible for the legislative system become less inclined to discuss polarizing issues and agree on challenging questions quickly, which affects policymaking. Christian statesmanship rooted in patience and communication can be a mitigating factor, and its effect on reducing partisanship can be a question for future scholarship.


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