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S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Polarization?

Shiite vs. Sunni
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Republican vs. Democrat
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The (title-linked) story prompting this post is from the New York Times. It is a sad story in so many ways. To quote,

Two and a half years after the American invasion, deep divides that have long split Iraqi society have violently burst into full view. As the hatred between Sunni Arabs and Shiites hardens and the relentless toll of bombings and assassinations grows, families are leaving their mixed towns and cities for safer areas where they will not atomatically be targets. In doing so, they are creating increasingly polarized enclaves and redrawing the sectarian map of Iraq, especially in Baghdad and the belt of cities around it.

In the United States we have our own problems with religious polarization, as this US News article asserts. It was about "Justice Sunday" held earlier this year. To quote,

Accusing the Democrats of running a jihad against believers clearly implies that people who vote Democratic are either terribly ignorant or simply not good Christians, Jews, or Muslims. This is a surefire recipe for increasing polarization within the churches. One Baptist website complained caustically about "Injustice Sunday," quoting one minister who said: "There are people of faith on both sides; neither has God in their hip pocket on this issue."

I have to admit that I sometimes feel polarized myself. I fantasize about moving from my so-called "red state," to a really "blue"one, where I would be among more like-minded folk. And I have often posted angrily about Republican views on contentious issues.

But I also often have contended that the better way is to try to look for common ground. For example, in a previous blog post, this article on "The Politics of Polarization," by Galston and Kamarck, got me to thinking that there is just such a way for Democrats to return to governing. One author, however, Michael Barone writing in US News & World Report, believes we may move away from being as divided in the 2008 presidential election as we now appear to be.

Robert Samuelson wrote an interesting column titled, "How Polarization Sells," in June of 2004. He contends that the real polarization is between the true believers on both sides and everyone else. He may have a point. What do you think?

Article references:

  1. The Case of the Vanishing Moderates: Party Polarization in the Modern Congress, by Professor Sean Theriault (pdf format)
  2. Polarization, by Michelle Maese and Tova Norlen - from the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base Project at the University of Colorado.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe our voices are finally being heard. Many understand a tax break should not be offset by budget cuts. Most individuals whom receive tax breaks are encouraged to spend the money helping out the economy. However, shopping at Wal-Marts does not help our domestic gross product figure which in lay mans terms means we are not producing real revenue or tax dollars for our country. Encouraging domestic growth through corporate tax relief will ensure America is a competitive country while maintaining fiscal responsibility. This will help us better fund education. We want our health and education funded and we want it immediately.Americans are becoming more aware, more vigilant, they understand the value of education is growing and the need to keep a watch on congressional spending is critical. The time for silent bill passing on capital hill is now past. America wants justification for any and all cuts regarding health and education. How can an administration, who claims to be the education administration, make such a claim and then trun around and support education cuts? I read all about this on www.voteswagon.com

NUC said...

I find your blog very interesting. You express your thoughts well and you don't seem to be afraid to honestly evaluate issues without excessive name calling and filth. I do not consider myself a republican however I did support Regan, Bush 1 (twice), Gore, then Bush. I do not agree with your position on the war but I can agree to disagree.

I am disapointed in the republican party but I don't see anything positive about the democrats either.

On your issue of polarization, every election someone brings up the issue of eliminating the primarys and let the party leadership pick the candidates. After the elections the idea dies again. I think that the primarys cause a lot of the polarization. The moderates don't feel strongly enough about any one candidate for them to win and the extreemists all support the most extreem candidate. If you pick someone based on winning the election you would pick a moderate who would lead the entire party in that direction. In the current system we get polar opposites, neither one is any good.

Could you explain why you are a democrat? I understand why you are not a republican, but I don't understand the party loyalty. From what I read so far it sounds like you would vote for an extreemist democrat over a moderate republican and I don't understand that. If I am interpreting your position incorrectly I apologize.

oh yeah, I have moved quite a few times and I haven't seen a real difference between red and blue states. There is a big diference between red and blue neighborhoods but in most places people are just people.

Carol Gee said...

Anonymous, I agree that education should be a high priority. And I can agree on corporate tax relief also, as long as tax relief for the middle class is also strongly implemented.
Nuc,thanks for reading and the recognition. I feel that the primaries can be problematic when the electorate is overly swayed by the outward appearance of a candidate, rather than their issue positions.
Your question about party loyalty is a fair one. I guess the most honest answer is that I am one of those old-fashioned "bleeding heart liberals," a clinical social worker by training and inclination.
The therapist part of me probably accounts for my commitment to respectful discourse.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

NUC said...

you say you are one of those old-fashioned bleeding heart liberals. I can respect that and I can understand idiology. What I don't get is party loyalty. I may have my history mixed up but I thought the republicans were the isolationist party and the democrats wanted to right the evils in the world. Today the democrats seem against free trade, against military intervention in cases where horrors are occuring(Darfur, Sudan, Rwanda, the arab world outside Iraq). If the democratic party does not support your ideals would you stick with them and attempt to change them from the inside or would you switch to the other side.

Carol Gee said...

Nuc, I think that my party loyalty is at a deep enough level that I would stick with the folks whose "style" most matches my own. I am a cultural liberal (pro choice, strict separation of church and state, for affirmative action, protection of civil liberties, etc.) Those are biase I feeely admit.
As for military intervention, I was ok with going into Bosnia and Afghanistan as we did; the preemptive aggression in Iraq seemed wrong to me, both morally and strategically. My husband (who was in the Navy) and I both think that the U.S. should have stuck with rooting out al Queda adherents where they were, rather than put so many of our forces at risk in Iraq.
Free trade is a harder nut to crack. Mr. Clinton's position was just fine with me. And I am familiar with Tom Friedman's "Flat world" ideas and mostly agree that it is here to stay. But U.S workers are so vulnerable, which is the reason for my ambivalence. Thanks for the very stimulating conversation.

rygnn2@voteswagon.com said...

The debate over the war, and now the authorization of going to war, has trickled down into a he said she said nasty debate. Both sides are attacking the others stance and opinion so much that I feel like it’s an election year once again. Regardless of who said this, and who agreed to that, we are in the position we are in. This debate is supposed to be about establishing a purpose for our continued presence in Iraq and establishing a sound criterion for our victory\exit strategy.
However, it now appears that some politicians have turned this into a votes grab by trying to state their opinion, and stance, on the merits of the war, and their pretense for agreeing to go to war.
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

rygnn2@voteswagon.com said...

How is this for another issue to consider i nthe Iraqi issue? Just hours after Al-Jazeera broadcast a video displaying Iraqi militants with a hostage, President Bush stated that the United States will not pay ransom for American citizens reported kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents, Bush stated, “We, of course, don’t pay ransom for any hostages. However, in a February CNN article from 2002 it was stated that, “WASHINGTON (CNN) — In a major policy reversal on international hostage-taking, Bush administration officials said Wednesday that the United States might sometimes pay ransom to kidnappers. However, the officials also stressed that the government would be aggressive in recovering the money once a hostage was safely released…

The message, one senior U.S. official said, is that “we’re going to get you. We’re not going to walk away.” The amended policy — which President Bush signed last week (2002) — was announced Wednesday. The United States will become more actively involved whenever any American is taken hostage — not just when a government employee is abducted or in high-profile cases such as the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, officials said.(Cnn.Com, 2002)”

Most probably did not notice this shift in policy in 2002 and most probably did not notice there was a change back. So where does this leave American citizens taken hostage abroad? It leaves you in Gods good graces. The government has again stated it will do all it can in its power to recover any American citizen taken hostage abroad. However, no ransom whatsoever will be paid to terrorist; the administration feels that acquiescing to even one demand will only encourage this type of behavior and tactic..
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

Carol Gee said...

Raymond, yes, the debates are fierce because there is so much at stake. Lives can be lost, as with the hostage, and our soldiers, of course. I think the other thing that polarizes is that it is a long time before we can vote for the next president. Thank you very much for your good comments. There is common ground between us, which is good.

rygnn2@voteswagon.com said...

I enjoy your site Carol and I am glad we agree on some issues. I find issues like this very important. I also find it ironic, that on Pearl Harbor Day we are addressed with a potential terrorist bombing issue. However, today a potential tragedy was averted by the actions of an alert U.S. Air Marshal’s. Regardless of how real the threat was, it was very reassuring to know that the air marshals were up to the task of protecting American airways. This is believed to be the first time a U.S. Air Marshal has fired his weapon in relation to a potential terrorist, or hostage, situation.
As America received its terrible 9-11 report card Tuesday, it is reassuring to know this unique program is in place an functioning as it was meant to do..
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

Carol Gee said...

Raymond, thanks for letting me know that you enjoy my blog. I, too, feel that it is useful to thoughtfully wrestle with difficult issues.
The shooting at the Miami airport is one of those difficult issues for me, because I am a retired psychotherapist. If the passenger was bipolar and off his meds, it is truly a tragedy in my eyes. I understand that it may have been unavoidable, and that the air marshall was doing what he was trained to to. But how sad I am about what happened - to the man who may have been struggling against the psychosis associated with his illness, to his wife who probably was trying to save his life as she was perhaps trying to intervene in their argument gone terribly wrong, to the air marshalls who now know there was no bomb, and to the mental health field that wants to help the victims of mental illness be medication compliant.
My hope is that we can somehow acquire more wisdom about how to handle these extremely complex situations that do not lend themselves to a standard response. I am an airline passenger, and I want to fly "secure," as you do.
No easy answers for me here, Raymond. But maybe we can gain further understanding and respect through honest respectful dialogue.

rygnn2@voteswagon.com said...

Those are good points. Good open and honest discussion is the best way to solve issues. How do you feel about the Patriot Act? Some feel it is vital to America's protection, some also feel the same about the spying revelation. Some feel o.k. with the topic of spying, others feel violated. How do you feel about the admission by the Pentagon that domestic spying has been going on for some time in America? Do you feel protected or do you feel violated? Is there, and can there, ever be a balance between protection and privacy? Is the president taking advantage of our civil liberties or is he just more remembering of how tragic the events were when the terrorists took advantage of American trusts and freedoms? Have we forgotten how painful the tragedy is when we are not prepared?
Many are concerned by the news that the US Defense Department is intensifying domestic intelligence collection on individuals in the domestic United States. There have been proposed moves to additionally increase the military’s domestic intelligence activities from its current levels. The policy was originally enacted as a response to the tragic events regarding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
According to a recent Washington Post article, it was stated that, “ The Pentagon formerly focused on protecting its US bases and military operations, Pentagon intelligence collection inside the United States has already expanded to cover broader terrorist threats to the country.”
Many ACLU activists strongly oppose this maneuver as a violation of our civil rights, opposing positions advise that the policy is enacted to investigate most individuals who are not actually legalized permanent citizens of the United States anyways. Are we at a point in time where we must consider what a reasonable amount of privacy is or should we stick to our guns and hold to the already standing policies? Does limiting the governments’ ability to spy on what it considers characters of interest actually jeopardize our own safety? Are you willing to give up some of your safety to prevent your loss of any privacy? If you ask these questions immediately after a tragic event like 9-11 you may get different answers. What do you think?
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

Carol Gee said...

Raymond, thanks for your thought provoking questions. I am going to copy and past them into another blogpost that is current in time-Dec. 17, 2005. I think this will be better for our readers because I wrote about this just yesterday.
See you with my answers at the new thread above.

rygnn2@voteswagon.com said...

Lets hope this gets wrapped up soon, the American people need to move up and move on.
Raymond B
www.voteswagon.com

Carol Gee said...

I do not think that this will be easy, or that it will happen very soon. But your thought is a very good one with which to begin a new year. Happy New Year to you and thanks!