The Reality of “Accepted Truths” Today
The Reality of “Accepted Truths” Today
Studying political science necessitates critical thought on the status of “accepted truths” as applied to contemporary American politics in comparison to its past. Review of the literature whether this remains an appropriately assigned characteristic of American politics as recognized forty years ago frames the discourse of the scholastic task presented in this document. Von Eckardt (1995) advises “The truth of an argument alone makes it convincing (when it is) undeniable or self-evident, that is, evident by its own terms and definitions, it forms one of the axioms of politics (Von Eckardt, 1959, p. 65).” Accepted truths emerged from the concept of government as outlined in the Declaration of Independence as self-evident truths about American government concerning the process of government in a democratic society (Edling, 2003; Eicholz, 2001; Von Eckardt, 1959). “Politics, community, society, and economy are often used interchangeably because of a modern belief that all relationships are fundamentally power relationships, where hegemonies of class, race, and gender permeate the social fabric (Eicholz, 2001, p. *).” What emerges in this scholastic endeavor provides the dynamics behind this statement about accepted truths.
Whereas self-evident truths apply to the idea assuring equality of everyone at the same time these truths established as self-evident emerged from the logical conclusion of the collective of an enlightened humanity. The process of American politics set up by the founders of this democracy over 200 years ago connect accepted truths to the following four ideas that "Mixed government inevitably leads to obstruction and stalemate in government" and "Political power in the US can best be explained by the idea of pluralism" presented in part one. Following in part two the current standing of whether - "Putnam's (1995) 'Bowling Alone' proves that human connections are the most important component of participation" and "Actors in a two party system will seek the median voter."
According to the original accepted truth of how a mixed government inevitably leads to obstruction and stalemate in government this is somewhat of a paradox today as it was forty years ago. The mixed government method of an electoral system emerged from the British influence on the new American system where voting for individual candidates meant whomever wins sits as representative of a specific political district (Whittington, 2007; Whitehead, 2002; Von Eckardt, 1959). According to Shugart and Wattenberg (2003), “This mixture of electoral-system principles has now become so common that what once was an unusual variant now holds out the promise of being the electoral reform of the 21st century.” In terms of “direct accountability” and “proportional representation of diverse partisan” elected preferences, the mixed-member system continues today offering the best of both these characteristics of democratic politics as in decades past (Shugart and Wattenberg, 2003, p. xxi).
The framework of having this type of system looks at the ability for voters having the opportunity for remedying the previous electoral term of officials’ failures with the election of new representative in the current elections. According to political science scholars like Barker (1942), the mixed system “has long been at work in our country” and with such a type of government scheme, there exists procedure and personnel based on scientific precepts and the empirical or non-scientific aspects of the democratic ideals (Baker, 1942, p. 224). Consequently, the idea of obstruction and stalemate occurring therefore arises from the scientific/personnel aspect (the numbers of elected officials representative of partisan political platforms) and the non-scientific (empirical) where the behavior of the elected partisan politicians going against their party opting to take another stand on legislative procedures (Jones, 2001; Stimson, Mackuen, and Erikson, 1995).
What specifically cause a gridlock and thus a stalemate traditionally in a democratic republic governmental system according to Whitehead (2000), is “the separation of powers" as exemplified in the constitutional form of government of the United States with its institutional and accountability system. In America’s two party representative system of the government divided by further by the congress and the senate work to initiate necessary agreements that assure the continued running of the government and enact new legislation governing the nation, the gridlock, and stalemate occur when there is no consensus on a given matter (Whitehead, 2002, p. 101). The most profound example of a gridlock is when the U.S. Senate fails passing government spending budget that affects all aspects of the government including federal agencies. In the event this happens then federal offices shut down until the budget becomes approved (Klarner, Phillips, and Muckler, 2012).
Further to this, Klarner, Phillips, and Muckler (2012), determined that a “divided government increases stalemate” and looms consistent with the majority of empirical research findings focused on “more traditional measures of legislative productivity.” Offering an example, they refer to the times when mixed government shows compromise as linked to “high political and private costs,” as in the case of the 112th Congressional session with a divided and polarized political standoff. In this case, gridlock never occurred when two bills reauthorizing the USA Patriot act as well as an increase in ceiling the national debt passed. “Arguably, the legislative success of each was aided by the perception that inaction might be politically costly.” By rationale, had the renewal of the Patriot Act failed then numerous law enforcements across the nation stood losing the tools combatting terrorism in pursuit of public safety. A failure raising the ceiling debt therefore put the government necessitating defaulting some of the debt obligations on the books and “potentially pushing the United States into a new recession (Klarner et al, 2012, p. 1007).”
Parties typically work together as a team representing voters’ who connect with the elected platform on popular issues chosen by majority rule maximizing their influence/power. However, as explained by Ansolebehare, Leblanc, and Snyder (2011) and Cox, Ikenberry, and Inoguchi (2000) having the assumption of such an idea actually does not exist across the board and consequently, compounds the probability of gridlock and stalemate on some of the issues.
Perkins, Hughey, and Speer (2002), discuss how the historical networking behavior of society (including politics) and the instances of gridlock and stalemate about critical issues affecting national policies prove as it still does today, that such issues must remain unresolved until the balance changes to one side or the other. When this happens, the ones who suffer are the American people according to Abramowitz et al (2008).
Implications show the incumbents emerge in a better position for re-election despite any fractures occurring due to gridlock and the ultimate stalemate. Parties who do not work as teams, separating on the issues, invariably, one emerges the winner with his/her policy made into law. In doing so, the winning platform deviates from the median while voters prove they prefer policies closer to the middle.
Finally, another perspective:
The American people, especially those who care about politics, have also become much more polarized in recent years. To a considerable extent, the divisions that exist among policymakers in Washington reflect real divisions among the American people. When it comes to polarization, in the immortal words of Pogo, ‘we have met the enemy and he is us.’ (Abramowitz and Saunders, 2008, p.554)
Pluralism in American politics existed from the onset of its founding (Edling, 2003; Eichholz 2001; Waste, 1987), it existed decades ago, it continues today. The main point connecting the past to the current American political state and pluralism frames around how the democratic process based upon the peaceful rotation of power assures the right of different political parties existing and organizing. This is the fundamental aspect of the meaning of political pluralism (Manley, 1983) but other aspects of plurality exist that remain the same decades past and today. This similarity aligns to
Among the social scientists studying American politics, according to Manley (1993) the field remains about “the dominant theory or paradigm of power.” On the other hand, the experts continue in the debate of pluralism effectively supporting the democratic theoretic ideals of “equality, distributive justice, and peaceful social change.” Taking an overview of the historical political system in the U.S. according to Manley (1993) pluralism therefore exists by means of elite and class identification. Nationally, pluralism continues as representative of America’s political system as it adheres to its characteristics “open to multiple interests if these interests feel strongly enough about an issue to mobilize pressure (politically) (Manley, 1993, p. 368)” and create a political voice establishing voting issues, a new political party, winning seats on locally influential institutions such as school boards. In this sense, plurality functions in the same manner today as forty years ago in America (Manley, 1993).
Further, “the idea is that political pluralism which might challenge the goals of the developmental elite must be avoided. Japan showed the way in this respect, in displaying 'an extremely strong and comparatively unsupervised state administration, single-party rule for more than three decades, and a set of economic priorities that seems unattainable under true political pluralism during such a long period' (Sørensen, 2000, p. 300).” Comparatively, American politics saw the rise of environmental groups forty years ago leading to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970. Environmentalists groups, the EPA, and the Congress all have a voice concerning pollution abatement so any law enacted, results from the input of these separate entities while joining in a common cause, and represents political pluralism at its most basic. On the other hand, considerations exist about the power off political pluralism connection to economics and other aspects of a democratic society.
The fact according to Manley (1993) that American political economy operates so poorly reveals how the adaptability of the theory of pluralism remains problematic despite its theoretical legitimacy as to the power structure in America based on constitutional precepts of equality and equal opportunity. At the same time, inequalities politically, economically, opportunistically, along with the talents required for successful capitalist endeavors exist today, and have always existed despite any justification connected to the equal opportunity theory (Gilens and Page, 2014). Herein, lay the basis of the complicated underpinnings of pluralism as a defining aspect of American political demographics (Baker, 1924).
Pluralism from a pragmatic point of view exists as a paradox of some means by the fact it does exist aligned to describing the American political system as described already, allowing varieties of social interest groups the right creating a strong enough force to establish political pressure for their focus. From the standpoint of the political theorist, pluralism stands almost impotent because of the imbalances existing in the American society connected to the major pre-requisites as outlined constituting power (Gilens and Page, 2014). The fact America consists of a class system within its constitutional precepts of equality sets the idea of pluralism in debate mode. Manley (1993) explains, “In pluralist theory, classes have merely a nominal existence compared to groups; in class analysis, groups are seen and analyzed as fractions or sub-parts of classes” emerging as a clear conflict and the rationale of American political pluralism existing as a paradox (Manley, 1993, p. 381). Consequently, answering the question does plurality exist in American politics as it did forty years ago is a firm yes (the EPA for one example) but in all fairness as provided in this scholastic investigation, plurality exists theoretically as a complex political idea.
According to Putnam’s (1995) “Bowling Alone” holding today as when he published his view decades past, that human connection is the most important component of participation in a political society. Investigating this topic shows the literature for the most part agrees with this concept (Antoci, Sabatini, and Sodini, 2013; Luoma-aho, 2009: Perkins, Hughey, and Speer, 2002; Fischer, 2001; Durlauf, 2000). Human cooperation is the basis connected to the meaning of politics influencing this collaboration connected with community. Aimers and Walker (2008) explain human connection role in community development steadfastly remains connected with the challenge of engaging social service organizations in collaborative interaction with the citizenry working on the goal achieving equitable, sustainable, livable outcomes.
The importance of the human connection framing social development creates the foundation of community progress. In doing so, it expresses the characteristics connected to a democratic political society forty years but more significant an example proved established by the founders of the American Constitution as an accepted truth. Some experts call this idea of humans connecting for the development of a community (no matter the size) social capital (SC). Generally, SC defines, and measures significant through humans linking interpersonally, in the community, at societal and institutional levels of networking or bridging. In doing so, the SC process creates bonds of trust within these networking activities (Luoma-aho, 2009; Perkins, Hughey, and Speer, 2002; Durlaf, 2000). At the same time, Durlaf (2000) explains Putnam surmises how human interaction from “voting to crime to philanthropy” contributes to “fluctuations in the stock (of SC) (Durlaf, 2000, p.1).”
The idea of SC while not specific to Putnam (1995), nonetheless caught the attention of different fields of social science experts as emphasizing the intrinsic value of human engagement creating social ties generating the welfare of both individuals and societal groups. His theory of SC explains the success achieved by societies as remaining dependent upon collaborative bonds for long-term relationships in order to benefit society in lowering crime rates, increasing the health and welfare of the community, the pursuit of happiness as well as economic prosperity (Luoma-aho, 2009).
Further, while some find Putnam’s (1995) concepts vague (Durlaf, 2000), others see his writings emerging at a pivotal time with the increased uncertainty of societal issues causing fractures in proactive community development practices. His ideas further the concepts of stakeholder thoughts, relationship management, and the new energy in corporate social responsibility to local communities, regional, state, national, and global interests (Luoma-aho, 2009). Putnam (1995) understanding the value of the human connection to the success of a democratic society posited nearly 20 years how expressed concern that changing demographics had proved influential in the loss of the civic minded activities of SC. His message intended reminding Americans of the value of this in a democratic society at the community level.
The sense of community creating pragmatic as well as psychological empowerment ideally looks at this as actually a process that makes SC provide what Perkins, Hughey, and Speer (2002) call “opportunities to increase power, access, and learning.” This type of SC operates more desirably targeting development of community service resources as well as mediating structures for organizing efforts with political focus (Perkins et al, 2002, p. 33). In the final assessment, Putnam (1995) bemoaning the diminished civic connection in America while having a significant perspective, nonetheless proves incorrect when considering the town hall meetings held across America in particular with the decision of Barack Obama running for, and winning the U.S. Presidency.
The Median Voter
Discourse centered on comparing decades past and current behavior of actors in a two-party system connecting with the median voter, proves things change, but in some was ways they stay the same. Key (1954) stating, “"voters always did and always would in the main make up their minds almost immediately after the nominations and remain largely unmoved by the oratory of the campaign, others drew that inference (Key, 1954, p. 180)” over 40 years ago, exhibits a standard later literature provides a comparison. Key (1964) later became more outspoken about his disillusionment where his view held those involved in electoral analysis delegating the behavior of the American voter no longer existing in the realm of responsible and rational actions as implications of social determinism. He also did not agree with those who held “the (American) voter as an erratic and irrational fellow susceptible to manipulation by skilled humbugs (Key, 1966, p.4). Further, Key (1966) believed in the accepted truth holding the American voter maintaining a concern about questions of public policy, about how government acts, and about executive personality in election decisions. Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes (1960) argued the partisan voter does so by learning from both parents and socialization with others shaping an attitude about adopting the chosen party positions.
A few decades ago according to Fiorina (1999) the consensus among American political watchers viewed the lack of issues driving the candidates so they jumped on the backs of their opponents positions as a campaign strategy. The focus among the political science authorities of those times called for institutional reforms intending the development of clearly defined partisan political ideologies according to stated campaign subjects. The idea was to have a polarized “centripetal logic of two-party competition (Fiorina, 1999, p. 28).” In fact, this ideal took hold within partisan politics continuing today.
There is little doubt how today’s candidates represents a clear polarization of their political views differentiating themselves one from the other. Ironically, the precepts of the mid-twentieth century on this topic, and the end of the 20th century move to polarization proved problematic for some of the experts identifying any relevancy to the process. Consequently, the theoretical underpinnings emerged only aligned with how there exists the ability for supporting opposing positions among candidates as actual examples of their promises from an empirical perspective (Congleton, 2002; Fiorina, 1999). Into the 21st century, empirical applications consequently do support the median voter as a useable model. As importantly, "An empirically relevant model of democracy must allow for disagreement (Caplan, 2008, p. 147).”
Caplan (2008) explains the ideology behind the median voter looks at the fact all politicians in an election race want to win as well as the fact the voting population typically votes for the politician closest to his/her views. In adopting the position of the median voter therefore, in the case of a two-party election the position of each candidate theoretically represents how half the electorate sees the issue a particular way, and the other its opposite. “The only novelty: Since conflicting beliefs are the source of voter disagreement, executing the wishes of the median voter is equivalent” to behaving as if the median point of view about the issue is true. Consequently, “Democracy listens to those who are ‘in the know’ and ignores the deluded fanatics.” The fact remains, the median voter both theoretically as well as typically found exists as “one of the deluded fanatics, albeit a relatively moderate one (Caplan, 2008, p. 147).” Thus, other views look at the credibility of the median voter influencing political candidate position on the issues.
According to Congleton (2002), the general findings today concerning the median voter model called for by Fiorina (1999) shows “robust” activity representative of the formation of public policy in those politically active areas where the credibility of the median voter exists in understanding as well as caring about public policy. Consequently, due to the fact the empirical findings attached to the median voter model in this century proves a useful tool for approximating policy formation within the polities. Additionally, the literature provides recent findings on how the median voter model as a tool provides explanations about federal, state, and the local spending practices with additional data on the policies affecting international tariffs. In comparison with the influence of the median voter decades past on the issues on political candidate positions to the influence today, still exists as an accepted truth.
As outlined in the introduction, the study of political science necessitates critical thought on the status of “accepted truths” as applied to contemporary American politics in comparison to its past. The preceding scholastic research, analysis, and discourse provide this connected to two ideas starting with how mixed government inevitably leads to obstruction and stalemate in government, and political power in the US can best be explained by the idea of pluralism as presented in part one. Following in part two the discussion examined the current standing of whether Putnam's 'Bowling Alone' proves that human connections are the most important component of participation and finally if actors in a two party system will seek the median voter. All of these decades ago existed as accepted truths according to the abilities to prove so during that age, and today the accept truth remains an ideal that continues challenging experts developing a better understanding of its legitimacy in the complicated 21st ideals of American politics.
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