The New York Times reported recently on the death of Vernon Jordan, who fought vigorously for civil rights for at least five decades. That obituary prompted me to look at a number of obituaries reported in the national press within the past couple of years.

What I found can be boiled down to the well-worn phrase "the more things change, the more they stay the same." In particular, regardless of the year, as a nation we are continuing to fight the same battles relentlessly, inexorably, repeatedly, with not a lot of progress to show for it.

For example, current headlines show that the Supreme Court is willing, more than 150 years after the Civil War, to consider adding restrictions to voting rights. It appears that polarization among Americans is built into our form of democracy. Some of this encoded polarization is due to the tension between states' rights and the federal government’s role.

Our two-party system is supposed to capture the essence of the polarization, but that is clearly not happening. Intraparty differences are too numerous and complex to be navigated and resolved by reasonable dialogue and compromise.

For many years, I could not understand why the Israeli parliament was so fractious, and the government so dependent for its functioning on coalitions of opposing factions. Now I think I understand completely.

The American two-party system simply no longer works as planned. Acknowledging and embracing the chaos of our nominal polarization might be what saves our democracy.

BARRY PLOTKIN

Astoria

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