Pol1 Essay, Research Paper
Group Polarization and Competition in Political Behavior On Tuesday, November 14, 1995, in what has been perceived as the yearsbiggest non-event, the federal authorities shut down all “ non-essential ” services due to what was, forall purposes and intents, a game of national “ chicken ” between the House Speaker and the President. And, at an estimated cost of 200 million dollars a twenty-four hours, this doubtful conflict of dueling self-importances did non come cheap ( Bradsher, 1995, p.16 ) . Why do politicians happen it about congenitally impossible to collaborate? What is it about political relations and power that seem to ever set them at odds with good authorities? Indeed, is an effectual, good run authorities even possible given the current adversarial relationship between our two chief political parties? It would look that the exercising of power for its ain interest, and a competitory state of affairs in which one side must ever oppose the other on any issue, is incompatible with the cooperation and via media necessary for the authorities to map. As the United States becomes more utmost in its beliefs in general, group polarisation and competition, which requires a common exclusivity of end attainment, will take to more “ showdown ” state of affairss in which the end of good authorities gives manner to political posturing and power-mongering. In this paper I will analyse recent political behaviour in footings of twofactors: Group behavior with an emphasison polarisation, and competition. However, one should maintain in head thatthese two factors are interrelated. Grouppolarization tends to worsen inter-group competition by driving anytwo groups who ab initio disagree farther apart intheir several positions. In bend, a competitory state of affairs in which oneside must lose in order for the other to win ( andpolitical state of affairss are about ever competitory ) , will codify thedifferences between groups – taking to furtherextremism by those seeking power within the group – and therefore, to furthergroup polarisation. In the above illustration, the two chief battlers, Bill Clinton and NewtGingrich, were virtually forced to takeuncompromising, disparate positions because of the very nature of authoritywithin their several political groups. Grouppolarization refers to the inclination of groups to gravitate to theextreme of whatever sentiment the group portions ( Baron & A ; Graziano, 1991, p.498-99 ) . Therefore, if the extreme is seen as adesirable characteristic, persons who exhibitextreme beliefs will derive authorization through referent power. In otherwords, they will hold features that other groupmembers admire and seek to emulate ( p. 434 ) . Unfortunately, this circleof polarisation and authorization can take to abizarre signifier of “ one-upsmanship ” in which each group member seeks togain power and blessing by being moreextreme than the others. The terminal consequence is extremism in the chase ofauthority without any respect to the practicality or ” rationality ” of the beliefs in inquiry. Since the way ofpolarization is presently in opposite waies in ourtwo party system, it is about impossible to happen a common groundbetween them. In add-on, the competitory nature ofthe two party system many times eliminates even the possibility ofcompromise since failure normally leads to adevastating loss of power. If both triumph and extremism are necessary to retain power within thegroup, and if, as Alfie Kohn ( 1986 ) statedin his book No Contest: The Case Against Competition, competition is ” reciprocally sole end attainment ” ( one sidemust lose in order for the other to win ) , so compromise andcooperation are impossible ( p. 136 ) . This is particularly soif the oppositions are dedicated to retaining power “ at all costs. ” Thatpower is an terminal in itself is made clear by the recentshutdown of the authorities. It served no logical intent. Beyondcosting a batch of money, it had no discernable effectexcept as a power battle between two political heavyweights.According to David Kipnis ( 1976, cited in Baron & A ; Graziano, 1991 ) , one of the negative effects of power is, in fact, thetendency to see it as its ain terminal, and to ignorethe possibility of black consequences from the foolhardy usage of power ( p. 433 ) . Therefore, it would look that ( at least inthis instance ) authorities policy is created and implemented, non with regardto its effectivity as authorities policy, butonly with respect to its value as a tool for roll uping and maintainingpower. Another of Kipnis ’ s negative effects of power is the inclination to utilize itfor selfish intents ( p.433 ) . In politicsthis can be seen as the preference towards doing statements for shortterm political addition that are either absurd orcontradictory to past places held by the campaigners themselves.While this may non be the usage of existent power, it is anattempt to derive political office ( and hence power ) without regardfor the existent worth or deductions of a policy for ” good ” authorities. A premier illustration of this behaviour can be seen in the widely divergentpolitical stances taken by Governor PeteWilson of California. At this point I should measure up my ain politicalposition. While I do be given to tilt towards theDemocratic side of the political spectrum ( this is doubtless whatbrought Pete Wilson to my attending in the firstplace ) , I examine Governor Wilson because he is such a premier illustration ofboth polarisation and pandering in thecompetitive chase of power. Consequently, I will seek to keep mypolitical prejudices in cheque. In any instance, selfish, power seeking behaviour is reflected in Wilson ’ srecently abandoned run for President.Although he systematically ruled out running for President during hissecond gubernatorial run, instantly after hewas re-elected he announced that he was organizing a commission to explorethe possibility. And, in fact, he did do anabortive tally for the Republican nomination. In both instances ( presidentialand gubernatorial elections ) , he justified hisseemingly contradictory places in footings of his “ responsibility to thepeople ” ( No Author 1995 ) . This begs the inquiry ; was itthe responsibility that was contradictory, or was it Wilson ’ s politicalaspirations. In either instance it seems clear that his decisionwas barely based on rules of good authorities. Even if Wilsonthought he had a greater responsibility to the state as awhole ( and I ’ m being charitable here ) , he might hold considered thatbefore he ran for governor a 2nd clip. It wouldappear much more likely that the greater power inherent in thepresidency was the finding force behind Wilson ’ sdecision. Ironically, Wilson ’ s lecherousness for possible power may do himto lose the power he really has. Since hisdecision to run for President was resoundingly unpopular withCalifornians, and since he may be perceived as unable tocompete in national political relations due to his backdown from the presidentialrace, his political power may be fatallyimpaired. This behaviour shows non merely a neglect for “ good ” authorities, but besides a unusual inability to defergratification. There is no ground that Pete Wilson couldn ’ Ts have runfor President after his 2nd term as Governor had
expired. His selfish chase of power for its ain interest was so absoluteth
at it inhibited him from seeing the very politicalrealities that gave him power in the first place. In his attempt to gain power, Wilson managed to change his stance onvirtually every issue he had everencountered. From immigration to affirmative action – from tax cuts toabortion rights, he has swung 180 degrees(Thurm, 1995). The point here is not his inconsistency, but rather thefact that it is improbable that considerations ofeffective government would allow these kinds of swings. And, whilepeople may dismiss this behavior as merely thepolitical “game playing” that all candidates engage in, it is thepervasiveness of this behavior – to the exclusion of anygovernmental considerations – that make it distressing as well asintriguing. Polarization is also apparent in this example. Since Pete Wilsonshowed no inherent loyalty toward a particularideology, it is entirely likely that had the Republican party beendrifting towards a centrist position rather than an extremeright-wing position, Wilson would have accordingly been more moderate inhis political pronouncements. Thepolarization towards an extreme is what caused him to make such radicalchanges in his beliefs. It is, of course, difficultto tell to what extent political intransigence is a conscious strategy,or an unconscious motivation toward power, but theend result is the same – political leadership that is not conducive (oreven relevant) to good government. The role of competition in our political system is an inherentlycontradictory one. We accept the fact thatpoliticians must compete ruthlessly to gain office using whatevertactics are necessary to win. We then, somehow,expect them to completely change their behavior once they are elected.At that point we expect cooperation,compromise, and a statesmanlike attitude. Alfie Kohn (1986) points outthat this expectation is entirely unrealistic (p. 135). He also states that, “Depriving adversaries of personalities, offaces , of their subjectivity, is a strategy weautomatically adopt in order to win” (p.139). In other words, the verynature of competition requires that we treat peopleas hostile objects rather than as human beings. It is, therefore,unlikely, once an election is over and the process ofgovernment is supposed to begin, that politicians will be able to”forgive and forget” in order to carry on with thebusiness at hand. Once again, in the recent government shutdown we can see this samesort of difficulty. House Speaker NewtGingrich, whose competitive political relationship with Bill Clinton hasbeen rancorous at best, blamed his own(Gingrich’s) handling of the budget negotiations that resulted in theshutdown, on his poor treatment during an airplaneflight that he and the President were on (Turque & Thomas, 1995, p. 28). One can look at this issue from both sides. Onthe one hand, shabby treatment on an airplane flight is hardly a reasonto close the U.S. government. On the other hand, ifthe shabby treatment occurred, was it a wise thing for the President todo in light of the delicate negotiations that weregoing on at the time? In both cases, it seems that all concerned were,in effect, blinded by their competitive hostility.They both presumably desired to run the government well (we assumethat’s why they ran for office in the first place), butthey couldn’t overcome their hostility long enough to run it at all. Ifthe Speaker is to be believed (although he has sincetried to retract his statements), the entire episode resulted not from alegitimate disagreement about how to govern well,but from the competitive desire to dominate government. Indeed, whenone examines the eventual compromise that wasreached, there seems to be no significant difference in the positions ofthe two parties. If this is so, why was it necessaryto waste millions of dollars shutting down the government and thenstarting it up again a few days later? What’s more,this entire useless episode will be reenacted in mid-December. One canonly hope that Clinton and Gingrich avoidtraveling together until an agreement is reached. Although people incessantly complain about government and about theineffectiveness of politicians, they rarelyexamine the causes of these problems. While there is a lot of attentionpaid to campaign finance reform, lobbying reform,PAC reform, and the peddling of influence, we never seem to realizethat, most of the time, politicians are merely givingus what they think we want. If they are weak and dominated by polls,aren’t they really trying to find out “the will of thepeople” in order to comply with it? If they are extremist anduncompromising in their political stances, aren’t they simplyreflecting the extremism prevalent in our country today? If politicianscompromise, we call them weak, and if they don’twe call them extremist. If we are unhappy with our government, perhapsit is because we expect the people who run it todo the impossible. They must reflect the will of a large, disparateelectorate, and yet be 100 percent consistent in theirideology. However, if we look at political behavior in terms of our ownpolarized, partisan attitudes, and if we can finda way to either reduce the competitive nature of campaigns, or reconcilepre-election hostility with post-electionstatesmanship, then we may find a way to elect politicians on the basisof how they will govern rather than how they run. It may be tempting to dismiss all this as merely “the way politics is”or say that “competition is human nature”, orperhaps think that these behaviors are essentially harmless. Butconsider these two examples. It has been speculated thatPresident Lyndon B. Johnson was unwilling to get out of the Vietnam warbecause he didn’t want to be remembered asthe first American President to lose a war. If this is true, it meansthat thousands of people, both American andVietnamese, died in order to protect one man’s status. In OklahomaCity, a federal building was bombed in 1994, killinghundreds of men, women, and children. The alleged perpetrators were agroup of extreme, right wing,”constitutionalists” who were apparently trying to turn frustration withthe federal government into open revolution. I do not think these examples are aberrations or flukes, but are,instead, indicative of structural defects in ourpolitical system. If we are not aware of the dangers of extremism andcompetition, we may, in the end, be destroyed bythem. ReferencesBaron, B.M., & Graziano, W.G. (1991). Social Psychology. Fort Worth,TX. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. Bradsher, K. (1995, November 18). Country may be losing money withgovernment closed. The New YorkTimes, pp.16Kohn, A. (1986). No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Boston,Houghton Mifflin. No Author. (1995, March 24). [internet] What Wilson has said aboutentering race. San Jose Mercury News Online. Address:http://www.sjmercury.com/wilson/wil324s.htmThurm, S. (1995, August 29). [internet] Wilson’s ‘announcement’ moreof an ad: California governor kicks off drivefor GOP presidential nomination. San Jose Mercury News Online. Address:http://www.sjmercury.com/wilson/wil829.htmTurgue, B., & Thomas, E. (1995, November 27). Missing the moment.Newsweek, pp.26-29.