Each week, The Spokesman-Review examines one question from the Naturalization Test immigrants must pass to become United States citizens.

This week’s question: How long is a term for a U.S. senator?

Control of the Congress is up for grabs in November. Some political scientists are worried for the state of American democracy, which is showing intense polarization even in an institution – the U.S. Senate – designed to be more deliberative and open to compromise.

Cornell Clayton.

“I am worried that we have a significant faction within a political party today that continues to cast doubt on election outcomes,” said Cornell Clayton, a professor of government at Washington State University and the director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute of Public Policy and Public Service. “Several candidates have already announced that they will not accept election results if they don’t win.”

In the current political climate, there is intense partisan polarization, and political views more often veer from the center and toward ideological extremes.

“The Senate used to be much more bipartisan, but in recent years partisan polarization has allowed for the Senate to be just as divisive as the House of Representatives,” Clayton said. “Partisan polarization will only lessen if one party gains a significant majority, consistently.”

Every two years, one-third of the Senate is open for re-election. In November, 34 of the 100 Senate seats are being contested.

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