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| | |-+  Why is American politics so heated?
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Author Topic: Why is American politics so heated?  (Read 2177 times)
Phony Moderate
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« on: July 21, 2012, 10:11:19 pm »
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Seriously. I was just reading through the comments on a number of YouTube videos related to the 2012 election, and at least 80% of them were just mindless insults and personal attacks void of any kind of intellectual rigor.

Then I clicked on some UK political videos and read the comments on those too, and while there was still a decent amount of idiocy, they were on the whole much more respectable and civil.

This seems to be an accurate representation of the broader picture, doesn't it?
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2012, 10:20:50 pm »
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Because one of the key fundamentals of American society is the right to have an opinion and tell everyone about it. I personally applaud this, but this is one of its negative effects. People like that exist in Europe too but they're not the majority like in America. (I'm one of those people, too, but my opinions are (I hope) better thought-out).
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2012, 10:32:26 pm »
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     There's an attitude in American politics that applauds deeply held convictions (I suppose as a show of loyalty to your cause, or something like that). An easy way to demonstrate these convictions without spending much time developing good arguments is to just insult the opposition. Hence the phenomenon you have witnessed.
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« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2012, 11:22:24 pm »
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because the ideological differences are infinitesimal so the 'candidates' attack personalities in lieu of an actual debate on issues relevant to the pass of people.
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2012, 11:31:26 pm »
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'Cause we're cooler than e'ryone else.
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2012, 11:33:46 pm »
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times of economic turmoil causes lots of fingerpointing and scapegoating among the populace and can often lead to experimentation with totalitarian ideology.
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2012, 11:37:00 pm »
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times of economic turmoil causes lots of fingerpointing and scapegoating among the populace and can often lead to experimentation with totalitarian ideology.

It seems like you're implying the latter is occurring right now in the US, though...can't we all just admit Obama isn't a tyrant, Bush wasn't, and if the Tea Party comes to power it won't be?
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« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2012, 12:58:56 am »
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times of economic turmoil causes lots of fingerpointing and scapegoating among the populace and can often lead to experimentation with totalitarian ideology.

It seems like you're implying the latter is occurring right now in the US, though...can't we all just admit Obama isn't a tyrant, Bush wasn't, and if the Tea Party comes to power it won't be?

it is not an attack on the right or left. As someone with an interest in history, I've found that times of economic distress has lead to experimentation with extremist ideology, left or right, such as Russia in 1917 or Germany in 1933.
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« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2012, 06:05:50 am »
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Seriously. I was just reading through the comments on a number of YouTube videos related to the 2012 election, and at least 80% of them were just mindless insults and personal attacks void of any kind of intellectual rigor.

Then I clicked on some UK political videos and read the comments on those too, and while there was still a decent amount of idiocy, they were on the whole much more respectable and civil.

Most of those Youtube commenters probably aren't old enough to vote.  The internet dumbs down what you see of American political debate because American internet usage these days is dominated by illiterate teenagers.  Tongue
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2012, 08:48:21 am »
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Ok, here's your first problem: you were reading YouTube comments. The comments would be filled with vitriol if the video was of a dog saving an infant in a house fire.
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2012, 09:20:14 am »
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Well a lot of American politics is personality driven rather than policy driven (why Jim Matheson can win in Utah but wouldn't be able to in kensington and chelsea) and its a lot easier to get angry at a person than at an abstract policy . Also there's the two party system which makes US politics more tribal than most places.
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2012, 09:48:18 am »
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times of economic turmoil causes lots of fingerpointing and scapegoating among the populace and can often lead to experimentation with totalitarian ideology.

It seems like you're implying the latter is occurring right now in the US, though...can't we all just admit Obama isn't a tyrant, Bush wasn't, and if the Tea Party comes to power it won't be?

it is not an attack on the right or left. As someone with an interest in history, I've found that times of economic distress has lead to experimentation with extremist ideology, left or right, such as Russia in 1917 or Germany in 1933.

Oh, OK. That's true enough. I thought you were implying it was happening in the US now -- all it's causing is rather severe swings between the two established parties.
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2012, 10:40:17 am »
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People in other countries don't shy away, by any means, from expressing their political views.  I think there are, to generalize, three levels of contesting political discourse.  There are places and political environments where political disagreement is literally deadly, where the discourse itself promulgates hatred and that hatred is channelled into widely mobilized social violence.  There are other political environments where disagreement is. though clear and pointed, also much more civil, where political opponents don't accuse one another of moral failure and ignorance just because of policy disagreements.  I think the U.S. now is somewhere in the middle of this scale--political disagreements most of the time don't encourage mobilized violence, but the language people use about political opponents is often nasty and personal, as well as, very often, quite uninformed.  It's surely not as bad as it could be, but it could also be a lot more civil than it is.  This unnecessary level of heatedness is, in fact, one of things about American culture that turns me off the most.
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2012, 10:41:56 am »
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It's because it's a branch of the entertainment industry.
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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2012, 10:45:09 am »
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I think mostly because of the condition to which extremism has consigned the populace - in America such a large portion of the population lives in such dire economic desperation, and it is so visible, that it imparts a certain passion.  Misguided perhaps given that neither party will help them, but there it is.
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« Reply #15 on: July 22, 2012, 10:59:08 am »
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It seems like you're implying the latter is occurring right now in the US, though...can't we all just admit Obama isn't a tyrant, Bush wasn't, and if the Tea Party comes to power it won't be?
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« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2012, 10:59:34 am »
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It's because it's a branch of the entertainment industry.

If it was a branch of the entertainment industry, there would be more swimsuit models in Congress.
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« Reply #17 on: July 22, 2012, 12:07:13 pm »
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So we're Italy now?
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« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2012, 12:20:25 pm »
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American politics is heated because there is not  enough money in the treasury to fulfill government obligations, and over the last few years, has become a zero sum game.

Thus, people argue on how to divide the scarce resources of the economic pie.
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« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2012, 12:27:16 pm »
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More than 20 years ago, this book predicted American politics would get more heated as the Baby Boomers settled into their years of leadership.  (The BBs, as defined in this book, are now age 51 to 69.)

http://www.amazon.com/Generations-History-Americas-Future-1584/dp/0688119123

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« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2012, 01:39:25 pm »
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My best guess would be that a number of factors are converging to make politics in the United States, especially as it pertains to laymen, a highly-informed yet highly-ignorant facet of public life. A two-party system provides authoritarian individuals with exactly the kind of good/evil, us/them dichotomy they are so prone to embracing. For their part, it also offers politicians a rather enticing incentive (which gets stronger the higher up within the federalist tiers one goes) to internalize a ruthless, corrupt culture of clientelism in which they tell strategically-important voters whatever they want to hear, abandon principle at the first sign of trouble, and avoid taking an unambiguous stand on ideology for fear of alienating a large bloc of their constituents (alas, one of the perils of large, "big tent," coalition-like parties).

These conditions are exacerbated by long campaigns where party machines and groups with large volumes of private money at their disposal have ample room to maneuver in waging expensive "air wars" in their clamoring efforts to exercise decisive measures of influence in framing various issues, debates, and - ultimately - entire elections. Appearances come first and facts second (if at all), which I suppose is a gentler way of saying that elections become popularity contests designed to maximize turnout among ones own base, minimize turnout from the other side's, and claim the temporary loyalty of enough undecided folk caught in-between to secure a majority of the vote.

Meanwhile, on the citizens' end of the battle, 24/7 news networks and the internet afford hoards of busy and/or intellectually-lazy people easy, quick access to whatever "facts" or "evidence" can conveniently rationalize their strong, pre-existing opinions. Despite their best efforts to make their opponents see the perceived error and irrationality of their ways, adversaries in American politics remain in solid disagreement. This, in conjunction with damaging political stereotypes being built around and toxic rhetoric getting spewed by loud, embarrassingly-biased and/or prejudiced minorities in every major faction, gives the Average Joe a pretty wretchedly distorted perception of how and why their opponents in politics think and believe what they do. What ideally ought to be a mutually-respectful disagreement between ideological blocs of American voters thus becomes a matter of, "I am a <insert positive adjective> person because I think and do this, and you are a <insert negative adjective> person because you think that." Am I generalizing much? Sure. But I do not think it is a bad way to conceptualize what is transpiring in American politics.

To put this all in simpler, albeit jargon-laden terms, American politics tends to be so very heated because political actors are using 21st century tools and strategies to efficiently compete in a game where long-term success requires that one secure control of and wisely manipulate symbolic capital in such a way as to derive power from it. Those who make themselves look best and their opponents worst shall thrive, and the skills necessary for one to do so are unfortunately distinct from those that nudge one toward being a great public servant. Everything else we see in this dilemma of negativity is a symptom of that greater disease, the absence of effective regulation of political conflicts forever raging on betwixt numerous, self-interested individuals, party factions, PACs, etc. That is not to suggest political actors are bad folk, per se, just that the rules that bind them suck right now and immerse them in environs where socially harmful behavior is rewarded.

A bit of a ramble I know, but what do ya'll think of that? Are there any important pieces missing? I see a lot of posts here about the passions of the people and their tendency to care about personalities more than ideas, which I donít think is incompatible with what I am saying about contests of image and votersí inclination to rationalize rather than to be strictly rational. There is also some Marxian analysis provided earlier on in the thread that I must reject, however, as I adhere to a relatively Bourdieuan perspective (which at times sounds a bit Marxist but is actually influenced somewhat more by Weber) on how to explain social conflict.
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« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2012, 01:41:56 pm »
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Seriously. I was just reading through the comments on a number of YouTube videos related to the 2012 election, and at least 80% of them were just mindless insults and personal attacks void of any kind of intellectual rigor.
Expecting intellectual rigor from YouTube comments is like waiting for Godot. 
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« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2012, 02:33:54 pm »
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The reason we have heated politics is simply because we are a two-party nation, where the two parties have hardly changed save the Democrat-Republican flip and have been going at it for over two centuries.
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« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2012, 02:57:51 pm »
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So we're Italy now?

No; you haven't been inflicted with Silvio Berlusconi. Yet.
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« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2012, 03:03:20 pm »
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The reason we have heated politics is simply because we are a two-party nation, where the two parties have hardly changed save the Democrat-Republican flip and have been going at it for over two centuries.

What an oversimplification.
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