Over the last year, hundreds of thousands of articles have been written about the divisive state of the American public, as shown by one of the most rancorous presidential elections in modern history. Some of those articles blamed Donald Trump. Some of them blamed the liberal media. Some of them blamed Hillary Clinton. Some of them blamed the conservative media.

The real culprit, however, is the federal government.

The reason Americans are so passionately divided is that it now makes a real difference who is elected president. That’s not to suggest that elections didn’t matter in the good old days; they did. But perhaps they didn’t quite matter THIS much. Why is that? Because in those good old days, the stakes were much lower. If you were successful in your life with a Republican in the White House, you could still be successful with a Democratic president. Sure, it’s a favorite national pastime to argue about politics, but those arguments could be conducted at a reasonable distance.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.

The federal government’s tentacles are now everywhere. Washington calls the shots. Politicians in the nation’s capitol make decisions every day that have dramatic effects on people they will never meet. Small businesses fail or succeed based on regulations that no unelected citizen asked for.

Republicans – nominally the party of small government – have essentially abandoned any serious effort to get the federal behemoth under control. Their idea of limited government now consists of sitting in Congress and doing nothing…until the pressure builds so high that they are forced to cave on another insane budget, another ludicrous bill, another trampled freedom.

But while Republicans deserve plenty of scorn for their collective ineffectiveness, the Democrats are the ones actively trying to turn us into the United State of America. Their push towards socialism didn’t start yesterday, but it has accelerated under Barack Obama. This is best illustrated by the Affordable Care Act, which turned the federal government into stewards of health insurance. Years later, it still boggles the mind that American citizens must, under penalty of law, purchase that insurance. The law’s complete failure is almost beside the point; it should have never been passed in the first place.

Of course, it’s not just that the federal government is growing too large; the problem is actually worse than that. The executive branch has grown far more powerful under Obama. An increasing amount of power now goes to a single individual who makes ideological decisions that affect American cities they’ve never even heard of. Maybe it was an exaggeration to refer to him as “Emperor Obama,” but he certainly paved the way for that kind of tyranny.

Until and unless we bring power back to our state and local governments, these blisteringly divisive national elections will only get worse.