US political culture - How did we get here?

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Inglonias
Posts: 126
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2010 5:54 pm UTC

US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Inglonias » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:56 pm UTC

If you live in the United States, hopefully you are aware of the extremely hostile environment that pervades politics right now. Congress is so gridlocked that they haven't been able to pass a federal budget in three years.

If pundits (on both sides) are to be believed, we're choosing between an eco-terrorist, nazi, communist, fascist, baby killer and a tax-evading, job-killing, corporate puppet that is completely out of touch with the state of the country in the next election.

Because of this, it feels as though we are ignoring the massive problems the country faces on every front. The debt is ballooning, the economy is teetering, the climate is changing, and health care needs fixing.

My question is not "What will happen?" or "How can we fix this?" or even "When will it get better?" My question is simply "How did we get here?" What changes in culture, technology, the state of the world, or anything else has given us this environment?

My personal theory is below and reflects my knowledge and feelings of what is going on.

Spoiler:
The biggest event of the decade was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I feel that this played a big role in our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars led, in part, to the enormous debt problem the country is facing (Source). Just before a President who had a remarkably low approval rating left office, the sub-prime mortgage crisis happened, leading many to panic. On top of this, baby boomers are now retiring, breaking the basic premise of Medicare that there are more people feeding into the system than there are getting things out. All of this combined into the dissatisfaction with government that we're seeing now. Our legislators know that we want to yell at the system, so despite the fact that they are part of it, they know they can win votes by doing that. This has the side-effect of completely losing the ability to compromise (in public), since everyone yelling feels that they have to be the "good guy" and "never waver in their stance" or else nobody will vote for them.

Behind all of this is a remarkable technological leap in computing and the Internet. Information (or misinformation) can now be sent around the world instantly. Everything moves faster now, and because of this, extremely complex issues are simplified to fit into a tweet or status update and constituents become less informed about the issues.

I feel that these factors (along with many more that I'm sure I've missed) helped to contribute to the environment we see in Washington.

Роберт
Posts: 4285
Joined: Wed May 14, 2008 1:56 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Роберт » Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:58 pm UTC

The de facto two-party system that comes with the way our government is set up and the way our voting system works certainly contributes to the issue. You end up with people voting against Obama. Honestly, I'm not sure more than 1% of the population will actually vote *for* Romney, even though he has a reasonable chance of winning the election.
The Great Hippo wrote:[T]he way we treat suspected terrorists genuinely terrifies me.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:04 pm UTC

Well, it looks like viewership for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, a reality TV show about a horrible redneck family, is higher than for the RNC.

So, I suspect the political culture might be just a little bit out of tune with most of America. On the other hand...that might not be the worst of things, given what we apparently like.

Oh yeah, and the inherent partisanship is a pretty natural outgrowth of our two party structure. It's a shame, really, but demonization of the "wrong" party, whichever one that is, has been happening for forever.

User avatar
sam_i_am
Posts: 624
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:38 pm UTC
Location: Urbana, Illinois, USA

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby sam_i_am » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:15 pm UTC

Inglonias wrote:If you live in the United States, hopefully you are aware of the extremely hostile environment that pervades politics right now. Congress is so gridlocked that they haven't been able to pass a federal budget in three years.

If pundits (on both sides) are to be believed, we're choosing between an eco-terrorist, nazi, communist, fascist, baby killer and a tax-evading, job-killing, corporate puppet that is completely out of touch with the state of the country in the next election.

Because of this, it feels as though we are ignoring the massive problems the country faces on every front. The debt is ballooning, the economy is teetering, the climate is changing, and health care needs fixing.

My question is not "What will happen?" or "How can we fix this?" or even "When will it get better?" My question is simply "How did we get here?" What changes in culture, technology, the state of the world, or anything else has given us this environment?

My personal theory is below and reflects my knowledge and feelings of what is going on.

Spoiler:
The biggest event of the decade was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I feel that this played a big role in our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars led, in part, to the enormous debt problem the country is facing (Source). Just before a President who had a remarkably low approval rating left office, the sub-prime mortgage crisis happened, leading many to panic. On top of this, baby boomers are now retiring, breaking the basic premise of Medicare that there are more people feeding into the system than there are getting things out. All of this combined into the dissatisfaction with government that we're seeing now. Our legislators know that we want to yell at the system, so despite the fact that they are part of it, they know they can win votes by doing that. This has the side-effect of completely losing the ability to compromise (in public), since everyone yelling feels that they have to be the "good guy" and "never waver in their stance" or else nobody will vote for them.

Behind all of this is a remarkable technological leap in computing and the Internet. Information (or misinformation) can now be sent around the world instantly. Everything moves faster now, and because of this, extremely complex issues are simplified to fit into a tweet or status update and constituents become less informed about the issues.

I feel that these factors (along with many more that I'm sure I've missed) helped to contribute to the environment we see in Washington.


Your theory and thesis for that matter is based off of the false premise that politics is somewhat more vicious and polarizing than it was in the early ages of the country.

100+ years ago, most newspapers were openly partisan.
Congressmen had gun duels with each-other
Slanderous politics was rampant.

I remember a historian on the daily show saying something to the effect of

If the founding fathers could see the state of politics today, They'd say "wow, they've really cleaned it up"

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:36 pm UTC

I, for one, would support our senators having gun duels with each other. C-SPAN would be MUCH better viewing.

User avatar
firechicago
Posts: 621
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:27 pm UTC
Location: One time, I put a snowglobe in the microwave and pushed "Hot Dog"

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby firechicago » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:00 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:Your theory and thesis for that matter is based off of the false premise that politics is somewhat more vicious and polarizing than it was in the early ages of the country.

100+ years ago, most newspapers were openly partisan.
Congressmen had gun duels with each-other
Slanderous politics was rampant.

I remember a historian on the daily show saying something to the effect of

If the founding fathers could see the state of politics today, They'd say "wow, they've really cleaned it up"


More to the point, 150 years ago political rancor had gotten so bad that Americans were killing each other by the tens and hundreds of thousands over questions of politics.

User avatar
LaserGuy
Posts: 4582
Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:33 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:14 pm UTC

I feel that this has more to do with a sort of "tribalism" than any of the underlying political philosophies of the various parties. It isn't that Obama's policies are better than Romney's or vice versa, for most of the electorate. It's that "we" want our guy to win because he's our guy. They identify with the party, not necessarily with the policies. In this context, being seen working with the other side is a weakness, a betrayal. And if your guy makes a mistake or does something really stupid, it's not going to make you switch sides. It will make you swear and curse and get defensive much like your goal missed a big save or your star quarterback threw an interception that cost the game. You might want to see the guy benched, but you aren't going to give up on the team.

The same is true of a lot of the culture war issues. Abortion, gay marriage, etc. don't affect the lives of a lot of the people who are very passionate about these issues. There's no reason for them to care one way or the other. But they care about it because it's been framed in the context of "their side" winning or losing.

Derek
Posts: 2181
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Derek » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:36 pm UTC

sam_i_am wrote:Your theory and thesis for that matter is based off of the false premise that politics is somewhat more vicious and polarizing than it was in the early ages of the country.

100+ years ago, most newspapers were openly partisan.
Congressmen had gun duels with each-other
Slanderous politics was rampant.

I remember a historian on the daily show saying something to the effect of

If the founding fathers could see the state of politics today, They'd say "wow, they've really cleaned it up"

While this is certainly true, how would you compare the current political climate to ten or twenty years ago? Do you think we're more or less partisan than back then?

User avatar
omgryebread
Posts: 1393
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:03 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby omgryebread » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:14 am UTC

Derek wrote:While this is certainly true, how would you compare the current political climate to ten or twenty years ago? Do you think we're more or less partisan than back then?
If we are more partisan now than then, the question might be "what about 20 years ago made us particularly non-partisan?"

Basically, I'm not sure there is a feasible baseline for how partisan politics is or should be.


LaserGuy wrote:I feel that this has more to do with a sort of "tribalism" than any of the underlying political philosophies of the various parties. It isn't that Obama's policies are better than Romney's or vice versa, for most of the electorate. It's that "we" want our guy to win because he's our guy. They identify with the party, not necessarily with the policies. In this context, being seen working with the other side is a weakness, a betrayal. And if your guy makes a mistake or does something really stupid, it's not going to make you switch sides. It will make you swear and curse and get defensive much like your goal missed a big save or your star quarterback threw an interception that cost the game. You might want to see the guy benched, but you aren't going to give up on the team.

The same is true of a lot of the culture war issues. Abortion, gay marriage, etc. don't affect the lives of a lot of the people who are very passionate about these issues. There's no reason for them to care one way or the other. But they care about it because it's been framed in the context of "their side" winning or losing.
You're right, I think, but I'm not sure if that's a bad thing. I'm unashamedly partisan, but it's not out of the same motivations as I root for my favorite sports team. Case in point: I did some footwork for Sheila Dixon's mayoral reelection campaign. It later came to light she was corrupt and stealing from a city program. She was straight up, a pretty horrible person.

My reaction was not to vote Republican. It wasn't even to vote for a drastically different candidate. I agreed with Dixon's views. Her scandal isn't going to cause me to change my political views. I'm still loyal to Democrats but it's not because DEMOCRATS 4 LYFE DONKEY 4EVER. It's because fuck, Republicans are still wrong.

If it were revealed tomorrow that Obama was taking bribes from the cupcake industry, you can be sure I'd still be voting Biden 2012. If he did something truly horrible politically that I totally disagree with, his wrongness wouldn't make Mitt Romney any less wrong himself. And it wouldn't make all the other Democrats wrong.

Yes, I identify with the party, but that's because I identify with its policies. To be fair: that's not always the case, nor is it fully true with me. Surely some of my identification as a Democrat is because I'm relatively poor or because I'm female. Though that too is deeper, and policy-oriented. I think Democratic policies are better for me as a women.
avatar from Nononono by Lynn Okamoto.

User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
Posts: 11128
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Yakk » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:38 am UTC

10 years ago: Bush is in office, under allegation of having stolen the white house via miscount, voter fraud, and supreme court justices (some of whom where picked by his father) picking him as the next president. Fascist accusations are common as Bush Jr is ramping up intelligence power and the justice department issues rulings based on the unitary executive theory. Cheney is described as a war criminal profiteer, left over from the corrupt Nixon/Reagan era.

20 years ago: Bush is in office, at the tail end of the Reagan republican surge. He's considered to be the beneficiary of Nixon's "southern strategy", where the Republicans have cooped the poor white south with thinly veiled racist positions, and stolen the traditional democratic-leaning south from the other party. The economy is in a slump, and Bill Clinton is attempting to retake the white house from over a decade of Republican domination. Accusations that Bill Clinton has killed numerous people in his rise to his current political state are all over the place, and accusations of War Crimes over Bush's acts under Reagan (Iran-Contra anyone?) and his own war in Iraq also fly.

30 years ago: Reagan is enacting massive over-spending on military, and joking about starting WW3. The Left is demonized as being Lilly livered communist sympathizers. Republicans have retaken the white house by using theocratic and veiled racist language. Inflation has only recently fallen below 10% per year, and the economic recovery consists of a slower contraction than the last year.

40 years go: Nixon wins the white house, sweeping the entire nation, coopting the southern racist vote and the traditional northern republican strongholds of New York state. The election is between an anti-war and pro-war candidate, with the Democratic party fielding McGovern, who is soundly trounced. The civil rights battles in the south continue. 4 years go MLK (who is considered an evil communist to this day by many of his political opponents) was assassinated.

Edit: Note that the above is ridiculously sketchy, getting exceedingly so as it proceeds backwards into the mists of time.
Last edited by Yakk on Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:17 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 05, 2012 1:26 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:I feel that this has more to do with a sort of "tribalism" than any of the underlying political philosophies of the various parties. It isn't that Obama's policies are better than Romney's or vice versa, for most of the electorate. It's that "we" want our guy to win because he's our guy.
You're right, I think, but I'm not sure if that's a bad thing. I'm unashamedly partisan, but it's not out of the same motivations as I root for my favorite sports team. Case in point: I did some footwork for Sheila Dixon's mayoral reelection campaign. It later came to light she was corrupt and stealing from a city program. She was straight up, a pretty horrible person.

My reaction was not to vote Republican. It wasn't even to vote for a drastically different candidate. I agreed with Dixon's views. Her scandal isn't going to cause me to change my political views. I'm still loyal to Democrats but it's not because DEMOCRATS 4 LYFE DONKEY 4EVER. It's because fuck, Republicans are still wrong.

If it were revealed tomorrow that Obama was taking bribes from the cupcake industry, you can be sure I'd still be voting Biden 2012. If he did something truly horrible politically that I totally disagree with, his wrongness wouldn't make Mitt Romney any less wrong himself. And it wouldn't make all the other Democrats wrong.

Yes, I identify with the party, but that's because I identify with its policies. To be fair: that's not always the case, nor is it fully true with me. Surely some of my identification as a Democrat is because I'm relatively poor or because I'm female. Though that too is deeper, and policy-oriented. I think Democratic policies are better for me as a women.


But here's the thing...there's a significant element of team-based thinking there. You're automatically going to support the democrat unless he or she really fudges the bucket, and you're automatically going to oppose the repub basically regardless, because you're primarily using party lines as the metric by which you determine who you support/vote for.

That attitude leads to both sides having a very notable base, and each of them fielding politicians that pander to those typical things. You're very unlikely to get variety, and you're certainly unlikely to get much more than two viable choices in a given election. Worse, both parties have fairly fixed platforms, so you have some pretty severe stagnation as a result. If we didn't have such a locked-in two party system, I would imagine that basically everyone would be better off in the long run, as there'd be less accepting of sub-standard politicians as "well, at least he's marginally better than #otherguy"

nitePhyyre
Posts: 1280
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 10:31 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby nitePhyyre » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:32 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:10 years ago: Bush is in office, under allegation of having stolen the white house via miscount, voter fraud, and supreme court justices (some of whom where picked by his father) picking him as the next president. Fascist accusations are common as Bush Jr is ramping up intelligence power and the justice department issues rulings based on the unitary executive theory. Cheney is described as a war criminal profiteer, left over from the corrupt Nixon/Reagan era.

20 years ago: Bush is in office, at the tail end of the Reagan republican surge. He's considered to be the beneficiary of Nixon's "southern strategy", where the Republicans have cooped the poor white south with thinly veiled racist positions, and stolen the traditional democratic-leaning south from the other party. The economy is in a slump, and Bill Clinton is attempting to retake the white house from over a decade of Republican domination. Accusations that Bill Clinton has killed numerous people in his rise to his current political state are all over the place, and accusations of War Crimes over Bush's acts under Reagan (Iran-Contra anyone?) and his own war in Iraq also fly.

30 years ago: Reagan is enacting massive over-spending on military, and joking about starting WW3. The Left is demonized as being Lilly livered communist sympathizers. Republicans have retaken the white house by using theocratic and veiled racist language. Inflation has only recently fallen below 10% per year, and the economic recovery consists of a slower contraction than the last year.

40 years go: Nixon wins the white house, sweeping the entire nation, coopting the southern racist vote and the traditional northern republican strongholds of New York state. The election is between an anti-war and pro-war candidate, with the Democratic party fielding McGovern, who is soundly trounced. The civil rights battles in the south continue. 4 years go MLK (who is considered an evil communist to this day by many of his political opponents) was assassinated.
What about the recent debt ceiling fiasco? Was there any other times when congress' bickering and stubborn refusal to cooperate caused other international institutions to lose faith that America was trustworthy as a country?
sourmìlk wrote:Monopolies are not when a single company controls the market for a single product.

You don't become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard you become great in the process.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:13 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:What about the recent debt ceiling fiasco? Was there any other times when congress' bickering and stubborn refusal to cooperate caused other international institutions to lose faith that America was trustworthy as a country?


Well, there WAS a certain period of bickering that involved an episode known as the "Civil War". I would imagine that would qualify.

User avatar
Zamfir
I built a novelty castle, the irony was lost on some.
Posts: 7594
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:43 pm UTC
Location: Nederland

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:02 pm UTC

What about the recent debt ceiling fiasco? Was there any other times when congress' bickering and stubborn refusal to cooperate caused other international institutions to lose faith that America was trustworthy as a country?

If you look at interest rates, there was essentially no loss of faith. People are used to a bit of political theater.
Last edited by Zamfir on Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:35 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
TrlstanC
Flexo
Posts: 373
Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:16 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby TrlstanC » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:28 pm UTC

I think that the biggest problem is the voters. We generally don't pay enough (or often any) attention, a huge proportion don't bother to vote at all, and when we do vote we overwhelming vote along party lines. Worst of all, almost everyone thinks they're right, and thinks that anyone that disagrees with them is just not as smart, we basically feel entitled to our political views regardless of how much effort we've put in to establishing them.

The current political climate is almost entirely a rational reaction to the US voter. If you're someone who wants to get elected (for whatever reason, money, to do good, because you're rich and bored), than the political parties we see now, and the type of campaigning we see is exactly what you should be doing to maximize your chances of winning the votes from US voters.

There are a lot of reforms that have been put forth to try to improve the situation: campaign finance reform, abolish the electoral college, end the filibuster, etc. but none of those get at the root cause, which is us. The first step to fixing things is taking personal responsibility for being a bad voter, figuring out how to be a better voter, and then trying to help other people do the same thing.

Personally, this is the tool I use: Candidate Grid. It forces me to put in some time doing research on a candidate (not much, but way more than zero), forces me to look at multiple sources of information, and generally forces me to confront the many biases (political and mental) I have when thinking about a candidate or platform. I can honestly say that even though I would consider myself very well informed politically, that this has helped me a lot. Everytime I've used it, I've found out new information about a candidate (both good and bad), and also realized that some of my views were based on old or just incorrect information.

Derek
Posts: 2181
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Derek » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:12 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:10 years ago: Bush is in office, under allegation of having stolen the white house via miscount, voter fraud, and supreme court justices (some of whom where picked by his father) picking him as the next president. Fascist accusations are common as Bush Jr is ramping up intelligence power and the justice department issues rulings based on the unitary executive theory. Cheney is described as a war criminal profiteer, left over from the corrupt Nixon/Reagan era.

20 years ago: Bush is in office, at the tail end of the Reagan republican surge. He's considered to be the beneficiary of Nixon's "southern strategy", where the Republicans have cooped the poor white south with thinly veiled racist positions, and stolen the traditional democratic-leaning south from the other party. The economy is in a slump, and Bill Clinton is attempting to retake the white house from over a decade of Republican domination. Accusations that Bill Clinton has killed numerous people in his rise to his current political state are all over the place, and accusations of War Crimes over Bush's acts under Reagan (Iran-Contra anyone?) and his own war in Iraq also fly.

30 years ago: Reagan is enacting massive over-spending on military, and joking about starting WW3. The Left is demonized as being Lilly livered communist sympathizers. Republicans have retaken the white house by using theocratic and veiled racist language. Inflation has only recently fallen below 10% per year, and the economic recovery consists of a slower contraction than the last year.

40 years go: Nixon wins the white house, sweeping the entire nation, coopting the southern racist vote and the traditional northern republican strongholds of New York state. The election is between an anti-war and pro-war candidate, with the Democratic party fielding McGovern, who is soundly trounced. The civil rights battles in the south continue. 4 years go MLK (who is considered an evil communist to this day by many of his political opponents) was assassinated.

Edit: Note that the above is ridiculously sketchy, getting exceedingly so as it proceeds backwards into the mists of time.

Drawing from a link in the 2012 election thread:
Congress set records last year for just how polarized it has become.

One way to measure the partisanship by looking at how many partisan votes -- votes where majorities from each party in the House and Senate vote against each other -- have taken place during the most recent congressional session. Since 1953, Congressional Quarterly has tracked those votes, and its tallies show extreme levels of partisanship.

The House, led by a Republican majority that includes a slate of tea party members elected for the first time in 2010, set a record for the frequency of these party-line votes.

The Senate, where Democrats were in charge, held far fewer partisan votes, but the average Democratic senator fell in line with his or her party's majority more than any time in the last five decades -- another record.

So by some objectives measures, Congress is more partisan than it has ever been for the last fifty years.

What about the recent debt ceiling fiasco? Was there any other times when congress' bickering and stubborn refusal to cooperate caused other international institutions to lose faith that America was trustworthy as a country?

The closest comparison I know of is the 1995 budget crisis. But that didn't really cause anyone to lose faith in the government's ability to pay, it was just a political fight. It did end up leading to the balanced budget of the later Clinton years though.

Well, there WAS a certain period of bickering that involved an episode known as the "Civil War". I would imagine that would qualify.

No one is saying we're more partisan than during the Civil War. Can we stop drawing comparisons to that?

User avatar
sam_i_am
Posts: 624
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:38 pm UTC
Location: Urbana, Illinois, USA

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby sam_i_am » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:38 pm UTC

Derek wrote:No one is saying we're more partisan than during the Civil War. Can we stop drawing comparisons to that?



So, When you said
What about the recent debt ceiling fiasco? Was there any other times when congress' bickering and stubborn refusal to cooperate caused other international institutions to lose faith that America was trustworthy as a country?


Did you actually mean "except for the civil war" or "in the last X years"

Was there really any time where we had more partisanship than we do now except for all the times where we clearly had more partisanship than now?

Derek
Posts: 2181
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Derek » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:45 pm UTC

First of all, I never said that. It was a different poster. I'm only inferring his and the OP's meanings, but I think they're more interested in modern history. Like, within the lifespans of currently living people. Pointing out that the US was more partisan during the Civil War helps this discussion about as much as saying that the Earth was hotter 100 million years ago helps us discuss global warming. In fact, if the Civil War is the only example of a more partisan time in US history, then that's a very bad sign.
Last edited by Derek on Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:51 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

morriswalters
Posts: 7073
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:21 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby morriswalters » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:50 pm UTC

People had babies and immigrants came until the population got to the point where true representative government became more than difficult, it became impossible. Add to that a society facing issues that are complex to the point of opaqueness for a majority of the population. You get gridlock.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:00 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
Well, there WAS a certain period of bickering that involved an episode known as the "Civil War". I would imagine that would qualify.

No one is saying we're more partisan than during the Civil War. Can we stop drawing comparisons to that?


Well, that issue pretty much started with the drawing up of the constitution and then nearly prevented us from being able to form a unified nation. So, we're looking at a pretty goodly stretch of time. Time when politicians actually killed each other.

Later, we've got stuff like prohibition. Or later, mccarthyism and a divided nation over Vietnam.

People apparently just frigging love to divide into factions and demonize the opposition, and basically always have.

User avatar
Zamfir
I built a novelty castle, the irony was lost on some.
Posts: 7594
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:43 pm UTC
Location: Nederland

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:23 pm UTC


One way to measure the partisanship by looking at how many partisan votes -- votes where majorities from each party in the House and Senate vote against each other -- have taken place during the most recent congressional session. Since 1953, Congressional Quarterly has tracked those votes, and its tallies show extreme levels of partisanship.

That seems a weird way to measure 'partisanship'. It's a measure of intra-party unity, not inter-party distance.

In the context of the US election system, it mainly tells you that the US has been getting less divided on geographic lines, so that politicians from different parts of the country find it easier to build a cohesive party platform at the federal level.

User avatar
Yakk
Poster with most posts but no title.
Posts: 11128
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 7:27 pm UTC
Location: E pur si muove

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Yakk » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:26 pm UTC

Hey, at least it's a metric.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

Last edited by JHVH on Fri Oct 23, 4004 BCE 6:17 pm, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
firechicago
Posts: 621
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:27 pm UTC
Location: One time, I put a snowglobe in the microwave and pushed "Hot Dog"

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby firechicago » Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:35 pm UTC

Derek wrote:First of all, I never said that. It was a different poster. I'm only inferring his and he OP's meanings, but I think they're more interested in modern history. Like, within the lifespans of currently living people.

But the point that people are getting at is that "within the lifespan of currently living people" is actually a rather anomalous period. The period from the 50s through the early 70's was one of remarkable bipartisanship for a variety of reasons, not all of them good. A more fruitful question might be why that period was relatively free of partisan hostility, not why our era is reverting to what seems to be more of a historical norm. (And of course, for what the period lacked in partisan hostility, it more than made up for in political hostility of other types, most notably the various Red Scares and the violence that surrounded the Civil Rights Movement).

Some reasons I might suggest:

-Democratic dominance of the House of Representatives forced Republicans to work across party lines if they wanted to get anything done.
-As the disparate parts of the New Deal coalition drifted further apart while staying in the same party, the result was a largely non-ideological party system.
-The fact that both parties contained people on both sides of racial issues pushed the most explosive issues of the day away from the party system.

yawningdog
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:00 pm UTC
Location: Glen Allen, Virginia

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby yawningdog » Thu Sep 06, 2012 12:29 pm UTC

Say some politician has a really bad idea that he is convinced will solve a lot of problems. For example, he thinks all gays (or blacks, or muslims, or christians, take your pick) should be locked up pre-emptively because of all the harm he thinks they are causing. If your first thought is "No, that's a terrible idea. I'm voting for whomever is against it." then congratulations. You are a caring and compassionate person, and you are propagating the two-party system.

There are people who support ideas, and there are people who oppose those ideas. This is where we get the two party system, and it's a perfectly normal thought process. The fact that it's gotten so hideous is (I believe) because that's what wins votes. Once you can get someone to emotionally react to an issue or person, their vote is cast in stone. Election season is a contest to get you to abandon reason and vote your anger and outrage.

That's how we got here.
"I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."
- Bruce Lee

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:28 pm UTC

yawningdog wrote:Say some politician has a really bad idea that he is convinced will solve a lot of problems. For example, he thinks all gays (or blacks, or muslims, or christians, take your pick) should be locked up pre-emptively because of all the harm he thinks they are causing. If your first thought is "No, that's a terrible idea. I'm voting for whomever is against it." then congratulations. You are a caring and compassionate person, and you are propagating the two-party system.

There are people who support ideas, and there are people who oppose those ideas. This is where we get the two party system, and it's a perfectly normal thought process. The fact that it's gotten so hideous is (I believe) because that's what wins votes. Once you can get someone to emotionally react to an issue or person, their vote is cast in stone. Election season is a contest to get you to abandon reason and vote your anger and outrage.

That's how we got here.


That is not at all how we got a two party system. We got a two party system because we have a first past the post voting system(with the addition of a glorious mess in terms of delegates and gerrymandering). Plenty of other nations, including many European nations, have other voting systems and thus, more than two parties.

A two party system isn't a natural outgrowth of ideas...it's a result of a poorly selected voting system.

User avatar
Zamfir
I built a novelty castle, the irony was lost on some.
Posts: 7594
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:43 pm UTC
Location: Nederland

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Zamfir » Thu Sep 06, 2012 1:56 pm UTC

The UK has a very similar system, but it doesn't result in the extreme degree of two-partyism as in the US. There seems to be a difference in the parties themselves as well. The large UK parties are by American norms very disciplined, and they are willing to lose districts if necessary to maintain unity. That's how the Tories disappeared from Scotland, and how the Libdems manage to squeeze in.

The American parties are more flexible to keep people in the party even when they regularly vote against the party line, if that's necessary to keep a district. That effectively crowds out third parties.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:03 pm UTC

There's a couple of factors there...first, you invariably get somewhat broader parties when they have to appeal to a ridiculous number of people living in very different locations. Secondly, and more importantly, you have proportional allocation of seats in many instances...this makes it a lot easier for a less popular party to gain some representation. Proportional allocation is pretty rare in the US, with most offices being individual winner takes all elections. As a result, representation of third parties in the house or congress is extremely rare.

User avatar
omgryebread
Posts: 1393
Joined: Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:03 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby omgryebread » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:10 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:That is not at all how we got a two party system. We got a two party system because we have a first past the post voting system(with the addition of a glorious mess in terms of delegates and gerrymandering). Plenty of other nations, including many European nations, have other voting systems and thus, more than two parties.

A two party system isn't a natural outgrowth of ideas...it's a result of a poorly selected voting system.
South Africa has proportional voting and effectively has a one party system, while the UK has FPTP and has three major parties.

Yes, voting system contributes but it doesn't do it in a vacuum. Furthermore, it's questionable why multi-party systems are more desirable. By virtue of the two-party system, the parties have to broad enough that they force out the worst extremists on their own. A politician cannot deny the Holocaust in the US, his party would instantly cut him out. Yet a Greek politician, in fact the leader of a party can deny that there were gas chambers.
avatar from Nononono by Lynn Okamoto.

leady
Posts: 1592
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:28 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby leady » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:43 pm UTC

A two party system is a very rational outcome once you recognise that the real differences between the sides amounts to huge 1% of GDP or so. Basically each election is a choice of path and a small step rather than a swing choice, and is largely and somewhat suprisingly (given boundaries etc) determined by the middle 20% of non partisan voters.

In the UK this manifests as "middle england" getting the decisive vote (almost literally geographically) and in the states its places like Ohio. Now this does certainly result in the "wasted vote" issue, but rationally no individual vote ever has any electoral effect.

3 party + proportional systems just give undue promenance to minority issues without forcing the hard compromises onto the minority parties. The british system if nothing else is very ruthless with minority parties in coalitions because of the FFTP system. Next elections we will be a 2 party system again now that the Liberal party myth of being "nicer conservatives" in rural england and "social democrats" in the north has collapsed

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:36 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:That is not at all how we got a two party system. We got a two party system because we have a first past the post voting system(with the addition of a glorious mess in terms of delegates and gerrymandering). Plenty of other nations, including many European nations, have other voting systems and thus, more than two parties.

A two party system isn't a natural outgrowth of ideas...it's a result of a poorly selected voting system.
South Africa has proportional voting and effectively has a one party system, while the UK has FPTP and has three major parties.


SA has one dominant party, yes...but a number of secondary parties with significantly more pull than third parties in the US have. Still, that one party has less of a dominance over the Assembly than the democrats currently have over either house...but nobody would call us a one party country, would they?

Yes, voting system contributes but it doesn't do it in a vacuum. Furthermore, it's questionable why multi-party systems are more desirable. By virtue of the two-party system, the parties have to broad enough that they force out the worst extremists on their own. A politician cannot deny the Holocaust in the US, his party would instantly cut him out. Yet a Greek politician, in fact the leader of a party can deny that there were gas chambers.


It's possible you may not have noticed one of our vice presidential candidates last year? Politicians denying well known facts is barely news, and extremists having pull in the party...cmon. the Ronpaul, for instance, actually garnered a pretty decent amount of pull despite not really being anything like mainstream, even within his party.

leady wrote:A two party system is a very rational outcome once you recognise that the real differences between the sides amounts to huge 1% of GDP or so. Basically each election is a choice of path and a small step rather than a swing choice, and is largely and somewhat suprisingly (given boundaries etc) determined by the middle 20% of non partisan voters.


Nah. A much more significant factor is which party can motivate it's base to a higher turnout. This is particularly strong in swing states...but that's a different thing from swing voters. If you're a swing voter in maryland or some such, your vote is literally irrelevant. If you happen to live in florida, your vote is vastly more important, swing or not. This results in both politicians pandering heavily to their bases and repeating the same tired old positions ad nauseum, not attempting to appeal to centrists. Both candidates are basically centrists within their party, with a somewhat more extreme veep to motivate more of their base.

leady
Posts: 1592
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:28 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby leady » Thu Sep 06, 2012 4:07 pm UTC

I kind of view disaffected partisan voters as floaters a bit :)

but yes I can see the electorial college system with weighted winner takes all setup exasperating that problem vs the normal constituency setup, particularly in the big swing states.

User avatar
sam_i_am
Posts: 624
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:38 pm UTC
Location: Urbana, Illinois, USA

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby sam_i_am » Thu Sep 06, 2012 4:24 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:That is not at all how we got a two party system. We got a two party system because we have a first past the post voting system(with the addition of a glorious mess in terms of delegates and gerrymandering). Plenty of other nations, including many European nations, have other voting systems and thus, more than two parties.

A two party system isn't a natural outgrowth of ideas...it's a result of a poorly selected voting system.
South Africa has proportional voting and effectively has a one party system, while the UK has FPTP and has three major parties.

Yes, voting system contributes but it doesn't do it in a vacuum. Furthermore, it's questionable why multi-party systems are more desirable. By virtue of the two-party system, the parties have to broad enough that they force out the worst extremists on their own. A politician cannot deny the Holocaust in the US, his party would instantly cut him out. Yet a Greek politician, in fact the leader of a party can deny that there were gas chambers.


20 or so years ago, you can take that statement and replace holocaust denial with support for gay marriage, and your statement would still be correct.

100 years ago you could do the same with interracial marriage.

User avatar
TrlstanC
Flexo
Posts: 373
Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:16 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby TrlstanC » Thu Sep 06, 2012 8:28 pm UTC

A good opinion piece in the Washington Post that covers this issue, and pretty much lays the blame at the radicalization of the Republican party over the 20 years. Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

I'd still argue that the fault ultimately lies with us, the American voter, for letting this happen. It could be as simple as looking at the economic cycle over the last 20 years, for the first 15 we were enjoying the upside of a huge housing bubble (with another internet bubble on top of it), and were willing to not pay too much attention to politics. And then when the bubble burst, we were susceptible to all the fear mongering, and weren't paying attention to the core issues. Maybe now that things are a little more stable and starting to grow again we'll have the incentive to pay a little more attention?

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 06, 2012 8:52 pm UTC

I'm pretty suspicious of any piece that manages to wholly blame one party. Oh, the republicans have a list of democrats that are commies. Yeah, that's NEVER happened before.

Both parties blame each other of ridiculous things all the time.

Jonesthe Spy
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:05 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Jonesthe Spy » Thu Sep 06, 2012 9:34 pm UTC

There's actually a very simple answer to this - Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine of the FCC. From the 40's to 1987 TV and radio broadcasters were required to present different points of view on important public issues as part of the responsibilities that being given a broadcasting license entailed, to make an effort to be as accurate in their reporting as possible, and to give people who were personally attacked on a broadcast the opportunity to respond. For instance, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers used the Fairness Doctrine rules to be given airtime on the radio station that allowed members of the White Citizens Council to attack him on the air.

It is absolutely no coincidence that the totally partisan broadcasts such as Fox and Limbaugh and assorted clones appeared after the Fairness Act was done away with, and I think that the incredibly partisan media outlets are EXACTLY why we're in the state we're in. Imagine if, for instance, Limbaugh had to allow Sandra Fluke on his show to respond after his vicious, grade-school attack a few months ago. You can bet that the tenor of the national dialogue would be very different.

Derek
Posts: 2181
Joined: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:15 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Derek » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:00 pm UTC

I think the Republicans are particularly uncompromising, and I say this as a Republican, but they also didn't become this way in a vacuum. For example, in 1988 George Bush (senior) ran on a slogan of "Read my lips: No new taxes". As president he ran into opposition from a Democratic congress, and eventually reached a compromise that raised taxes. He was promptly skewered on this in the 1992 election and lost to Clinton. I think this is largely why you will never see a Republican vote to raise taxes now, even as part of a perfectly reasonable compromise or in the face of an obvious budget shortfall (while advocating a balanced budget). Other examples have also shown that they have little to gain (politically) from compromise. If they break a campaign promise, they lose. If they concede some part of the President's agenda, they lose. So they have largely just stopped, and instead hope to make Obama look ineffective by passing as little legislation as possible for him to sign.

Jonesthe Spy wrote:There's actually a very simple answer to this - Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine of the FCC. From the 40's to 1987 TV and radio broadcasters were required to present different points of view on important public issues as part of the responsibilities that being given a broadcasting license entailed, to make an effort to be as accurate in their reporting as possible, and to give people who were personally attacked on a broadcast the opportunity to respond. For instance, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers used the Fairness Doctrine rules to be given airtime on the radio station that allowed members of the White Citizens Council to attack him on the air.

It is absolutely no coincidence that the totally partisan broadcasts such as Fox and Limbaugh and assorted clones appeared after the Fairness Act was done away with, and I think that the incredibly partisan media outlets are EXACTLY why we're in the state we're in. Imagine if, for instance, Limbaugh had to allow Sandra Fluke on his show to respond after his vicious, grade-school attack a few months ago. You can bet that the tenor of the national dialogue would be very different.

Removing the Fairness Doctrine promoted freedom of press, which I am highly in favor of, even if it has negative side effects. I actually seriously wonder how any such law could have been Constitutional in the first place, but I think it had something to do with the airwaves being a common good or something. Which comes to the second point: Those rules never affected cable TV anyways, since it's not broadcast over the airwaves, not to mention the internet. Newspapers have also always been partisan, in fact, I think historically they were even more partisan than they are now, usually openly being affiliated with one party of the other, whereas they now try at least appear nonpartisan, though you can usually still pin them one way or the other. I don't see any reason to treat two forms of media differently, and I'm not aware of anyone who has ever proposed regulating the bias of newspapers.

So while removing the Fairness Doctrine may have increased partisanship, it also increased freedom, and it would have been rendered moot by the rise of cable TV and internet news anyways.

BattleMoose
Posts: 1993
Joined: Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:42 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby BattleMoose » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:18 am UTC

South Africa is not a good example to be using.

Its a very young democracy, only since 1994. Voting is still very much along racial lines. Many black people feel indebted to the ANC for their freedoms and will vote for them for that reason. Many also will not vote for a white person, for historical reasons. The ANC is showing signs of fracturing and we have already seen the creation of a new party that tried to break away from the ANC, it was a failure but it still happened.

The one party nature of South African politics will not last. And there are also signs that people are voting for the DA (main but small opposition party) not exclusively for their policies but because they are not the ANC. The DA seems to be growing at the expense of other smaller political parties.

User avatar
sardia
Posts: 6802
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 3:39 am UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby sardia » Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:28 am UTC

Nobody is going for the demographic argument? Rising minority populations threatens the status quo/white power bloc so desperate people go for desperate measures.
Personally, I'm hoping we'll get a hint as to who's right in the next election, and resolve it by the election after that. At the very least, I want to see how the GOP plans to win future elections. I say this because they need higher and higher percentages of the white vote just to stay in power, and you can't go past 100% when there just isn't enough white voters to get elected anymore. (If I was the GOP, I'd court latinos since businesses want cheap immigrant labor, and Hispanics are mostly conservative catholic value people.)

Tyndmyr
Posts: 11443
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Sep 07, 2012 1:48 pm UTC

sardia wrote:Nobody is going for the demographic argument? Rising minority populations threatens the status quo/white power bloc so desperate people go for desperate measures.
Personally, I'm hoping we'll get a hint as to who's right in the next election, and resolve it by the election after that. At the very least, I want to see how the GOP plans to win future elections. I say this because they need higher and higher percentages of the white vote just to stay in power, and you can't go past 100% when there just isn't enough white voters to get elected anymore. (If I was the GOP, I'd court latinos since businesses want cheap immigrant labor, and Hispanics are mostly conservative catholic value people.)


Demographics are less of a concern. I won't say they aren't a factor, but they're not a dominant one. If you live in AZ, immigration/latinos are a notable issue over which people squabble a lot. If you live in like, minnesota or some such, nobody really cares. They'll generally agree that illegal immigration is a concern, but it's pretty far from central to them.

And that seems to be a particularly specific example, with not all minorities garnering similar attention. We have something like three times the legal immigrants from china that we do from mexico, yet little fuss seems to be made over them. So, I don't know that it's as simple as just disliking change.

User avatar
TrlstanC
Flexo
Posts: 373
Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:16 pm UTC

Re: US political culture - How did we get here?

Postby TrlstanC » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:35 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:I'm pretty suspicious of any piece that manages to wholly blame one party. Oh, the republicans have a list of democrats that are commies. Yeah, that's NEVER happened before.

Both parties blame each other of ridiculous things all the time.


Suspicion is appropriate, but the argument they present is fairly strong. And we should be able to accept the fact that it's possible that one party is at fault, otherwise what are we supposed to do when one party actually is at fault? If we just assume that "both sides say ridiculous things" and leave it at that, then it opens the door to a party just being able to base their entire campaign on lies, and assume that we're not going to call them out on it.

And the point being made isn't that "both parties say ridiculous things" it's that when a politician says something incredibly stupid, the other party calls them out on it, and they usually get reprimanded by their own party. That's not happening anymore in the republican party, no one is willing to stand up to the far right wing of their own party.

The other good argument this raises is that we got here because of low voter turnout, which allows the extreme parts of a party (that get the highest turnout from their supporters) to dictate the agenda for their party. The republican party has really used this to their benefit, and shifted their focus to their highest turnout areas, which also supports the furthest right wing part of their platform.

If voters turned out in the same proportion as they were registered, than the political landscape in this country would be very different. It would be somewhat more liberal/progressive, but it would be much more moderate/centerist as well.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests