Why Washington Is Tied Up in Knots

Discontent with government is at its highest level in more than a decade — making it harder to solve the country's biggest problems. A breakdown of how Washington stopped working, and what to do about it

Andrew Bettles for TIME

How polarized is America today? Not all that polarized by historical standards. In 1856, a South Carolina Congressman beat a Massachusetts Senator half to death with his cane in the Senate chamber — and received dozens of new canes from appreciative fans. In 1905, Idaho miners bombed the house of a former governor who had tried to break their union. In 1965, an anti–Vietnam War activist stationed himself outside the office of the Secretary of Defense and, holding his year-old daughter in his arms, set himself on fire. (She lived; he did not.) By that measure, a Rush Limbaugh rant isn't...