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Sender: Rickrad
Subject: Re: Where Does Polarization Come From?
Date: Fri, May 16, 2014
Msg: 100981

?Hi Michael,

My response was primarily to the 3rd sentence in the original piece that squarely puts the blame for the hyper-partisan atmosphere on activists. I should have made that more clear that it was that one sentence, I was responding to, not the article as a whole.

I stand my by claim that activists -- no matter how organized -- are not the root problem and I'll add that I do not believe gerrymandering is the root problem, nor uncompromising attitudes.

I believe all these things are symptoms.

The root problem, I will argue, is that government spending is not capped and prioritized as per the TEDx talk at

- Rick Raddatz Founder,

On May 15, 2014, at 07:52 PM, Michael Briand wrote:

> > > From: Rick Raddatz > > Sent: Thursday, May 15, 2014 2:10 PM > To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG > > Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Where Does Polarization Come From? > > I would like to offer a dissenting opinion. > > The first rule of blame is that the thing being blamed has to be changeable. This article fails that test because activists are going to exist as long as humans exist. > Yes, "ought implies can." But the argument is not that activists cause polarization, but that the nature of activism has changed. It has become more organized, especially across issues, and activists are able to bring more resources to bear more effectively than previously. This could change. It might be difficult to bring about change--or undesirable ("This isn't necessarily a bad thing."), but it's not impossible. > > The second rule of blaming is that the thing you are complaining about must be something bad. > As the author says, "This isn't necessarily a bad thing." And as Masket says, almost no one "gets into politics with the goal of driving the parties further apart." Moreover, "the parties aren't far apart because people hate each other; they're far apart because people want the government to do things." Not bad things, good things. > > Thus article fails that test because polarization is not clearly a bad thing. E.g., If it's true that both sides have a piece of the puzzle, then polarization is a necessary phase on the way towards solving the problem. > Perhaps polarization isn't bad, depending on what one means by the term. But if it implies or connotes extremity of views accompanied by rigidity and refusal to consider reasons for tempering those view, I think most of us would suggest that it's prima facie undesirable. For example, the role that gerrymandering has played in creating safe seats, with the result that 98 percent of incumbents are re-elected, with the further result--and here's the point--that the "middle of the road" perspective moves far left in Democratic districts and far right in Republican ones. This means that primary challenges come from more extreme points on the political spectrum. If, at least in part, this is what polarization is about, then I'd say it has a substantial down side. > > All of which leads me to wonder: what exactly were you reacting to, Rick? > > Michael > > - Rick Raddatz > Founder, Http:// > > > > > On May 15, 2014, at 1:26 PM, Brian Sullivan wrote: > >> Where Does Polarization Come From? >> >> From the Daily Dish, a blog by Andrew Sullivan (no relation) >> >> >> Hans Noel tries to answer the question: >> >> Members of Congress are not polarized because voters are now better sorted. And voters are not polarized simply because legislators now are. The missing piece is ideological activists, who now dominate the political parties. In short, policy demanders. These politically engaged activists are the base that legislators are increasingly playing to, because they are the ones who provide campaign resources and who threaten primary challenges. Their polarization also filters to voters, through elected officials but also through the media and informal networks. (And ultimately, these activists themselves may be polarized because elite political thinkers are polarized, but you don't have to buy that story to believe that activists are important.) Of course, studying legislative and mass polarization is very important, but its far from the center of the story. >> >> Seth Masket adds that almost no one "gets into politics with the goal of driving the parties further apart." Instead, he argues, individuals "get involved in politics usually because they want the government to do something different from what it's currently doing": >> >> Activists have become better at this over time. They're increasingly organizing over a broader range of issues and they've become adept at getting political parties to adopt their stances, making it even harder for politicians to resist them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, this is how governing ideas are generated and translated into law. But it's important to remember that the parties aren't far apart because people hate each other; they're far apart because people want the government to do things. This is why exhortations for common ground tend to fall on deaf ears. People favor compromise in principle, except on the one thing that drove them into politics in the first place. >> >> Julia Azari partially blames growing polarization on growing distrust of government: >> >> [P]artisanship and declining trust in government have become mutually reinforcing. In my research, I find that mistrust of governing institutions (I focus on the presidency, although I think we can all agree that Congress has not been immune to this) emerged around the same time that the parties began to sort ideologically in response to the collapse of the New Deal coalition and the rise of cultural issues on the agenda. These began -- in the late 1960s -- as distinct phenomena. But as time went on, they became intertwined. A general lack of reverence and respect for the office of the presidency -- not without good reason after Watergate and Vietnam -- have merged with party polarization to create an environment in which presidents tend to be divisive, rather than uniting figures. They also tend, as I argue in the book, to rely more on language that appeals to their supporters and their campaign promises, which does little to alleviate the problem. In turn, these developments shape the incentives of individual members of Congress, who have increasingly little reason to collaborate across party lines. >> >> -- >> >> Brian Sullivan >> Practical Evolution, LLC >> San Francisco, CA USA >> 011 415.305.3651 >> >> Perth, WA AU >> 61 8 9467 4445 >> Producer of CivicEvolution >> >> >> >> >> >> To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: >> >> > > To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: > > ############################

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