The subject of this essay is analysis of the American culture, and how it reflects on the American politics. The essay singles out the main aspects of American culture which have a bearing on the country’s politics. It seeks to understand what these cultural elements are and how they affect the politics of the land. The way in which these cultural elements help us understand much about the U.S politics is also highlighted.
First of all, the aspect of equality among the Americans has a profound influence on the politics of the country. Americans believe that they are all born equal (De Tocqueville 10). According to Tocqueville, all Americans consider each other to be politically equal. The notion that everyone has to work to attain equality with others is not considered. He goes on to state that during his stay in the United States, he observed that even emigrants were treated with the same equality. It ensures that democracy is upheld and views of the majority are considered. While the majority gets their way, the minority are given the opportunity to express themselves. This aspect of equality and democracy helps us understand that American politics do not have any favoritism (De Tocqueville 23). It follows that the politics of aristocracy are not played in the American soil. While other countries have fostered such aristocratic kind of politics, this has never happened in the U.S.
The element of competitive individualism is another pertinent issue of American culture. In this case, people normally believe that they are loners in the game. They believe that they owe nothing to anyone, and in the same light, expect nothing from anyone. This means that whatever they do, they do it to for their own benefit. They are also ready to bear the consequences of their actions. Americans for have pursued this so long to the extent that it has become part of their tradition. According to Greenberg, Democrats ought to advocate for the expansion of opportunities for the middle class. This aspect is important in understanding the American politics. It helps us understand why democrats in politics behave the way they do, and what makes them do so. Particularly, the present policies advocated by their candidate, Barack Obama. In this case, we understand that they belief that it is only their efforts that will bring them success. That is why you will see them being very aggressive in pushing for their ideologies. They believe that if they cannot achieve it by themselves, then no one will help them.
Americans also have the belief that they are naturally competitive. According to John Lock, they take every opportunity as a chance to become better than others. However, the driving force here is to outdo others, and be ahead of them. All that one does is geared towards becoming better than their colleagues and friends. Everything in life is taken as a competition. This belief has an important bearing on the politics of the country. While all politicians are public figures, each makes a lot of effort to appear better than the other. Sometimes this goes overboard, where one wants to achieve this at any cost. This is what makes some to talk ill of others and tarnish their names. This is aimed at making others look bad, so that the one doing so appears good. This makes us come to grips with the selfish nature that people can adopt in a bid to stay ahead of others.
Another important aspect of the American culture is their respect for Human Rights. In traditional American society, people are considered to be entitled to various rights as citizens. According to Tocqueville (9), to achieve equality human right must be granted to all without favoritism. This is despite that there is no specific list which outlines the rights to which one is entitled to enjoy. When it comes to the enjoyment of such rights, all are equal and none is considered superior to the other. When this is applied to the issue of politics, then it follows that specific mechanisms must be in place to facilitate the enjoyment of such rights. There has to be guidelines on how to enjoy one’s rights within a given limit. Mechanisms are also in place to ensure that nobody interferes with the enjoyment of other people’s rights.
The belief that people have the right to acquire and accumulate private property is also central among Americans. According to John Lock, a seventeenth century philosopher, this is a God given Right. He reasoned that because of abundance of resources on earth, one did not do any harm to others by accumulating more property. This became very central to Americans and became the basis of capitalism that is embraced up to today. This helps us better understand our political systems. Laws are made by these systems, which are in support of private enterprises. Others are created to protect private property, and it is indeed a crime to interfere with one’s property. Those in positions of authority sometimes misuse this privilege and misappropriate public property. From this aspect, we understand that the political systems not only promote capitalism, but also perpetuate it.
In addition to that, education also has a very sacred place in the hearts of many Americans. Since the colonial days, education was regarded as a very important asset to the citizens. According to Lipset (25), learning was respected from the initial days and this led to the establishment of schools and universities. On attaining independence, the American government instituted policies in support of education. Elementary and high school education are considered basic for every American. Lipset quotes a census done in 1840 in which only 9% of people twenty years and above were found to be illiterate. The Americans’ value for education helps us understand the country’s politics in a deeper perspective. It helps us gain a clear picture of what the politicians stand for, and what they can deliver to the people. Every politician will always come up with new policies on how to improve the accessibility and quality of education as a way of wooing voters. The decision on who to elect is more often based on the positions the various aspirants take on education (Lipset 28).
Another pertinent aspect in the American culture is that of risk taking. Historically, Americans are known to be great risk takers. There is a common belief that for one to make it in everything, risk taking must be a way of life for that person. It follows that Americans start embracing the practice early in life. This aspect helps shed some light on the way the country’s politics are played out. It is often seen that in majority of the political decisions taken, a lot of risk taking is usually involved. The obvious way is not the most preferred most of the times.
Among the American culture, the freedom of expression is given a lot of weight. People are considered free to air out their views and opinions as they please. The states however, through various mechanisms limit the extent of this right. In the world of politics, people have the freedom to criticize one another, and critique their policies. Politicians also publicly criticize each other, and disclose sensitive information about others. Various laws have been put in place to safeguard this freedom. The limits imposed on the enjoyment of this freedom are also subject of these laws and regulations. In conclusion, it can be said that Americans have a diverse culture, and it plays an important role in shaping their political landscape. It is on the basis of culture that various political inclinations are derived.
De Tocqueville, Alexis. John Stone and Stephen Mennell. Alexis de Tocqueville on democracy,
revolution, and society: selected writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.
Lipset, Seymour. The democratic century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. Print.