Elites and Polarization
The readings for this week outlined the complexity of polarized politics, particularly its history, output, and negative consequences on not only the United States electorate but also the nations' own institutions of governance. In the McCarty article, he touches on how polarization limits the ability of congressional and legislative officials to undertake ambitious policy making. Moreover, McCarty asserts that polarization has weakened the ability of the legislative branch to engage in meaningful policy making, especially as it relates to economic and social issues. As a result, judicial and executive branch officials, according to McCarty, are forced to independently create policy to mitigate these effects.
Building off the general context of polarization in US politics laid by McCarty, the text by Mann and Ornstein touch on the inception of modern polarization through focusing on the effects of a coarsened political culture on governance. The authors also attribute a sensationalized media and the influence of ever increasing droves of money to polarization and ineffectiveness of the US government in policy making.
Lastly, the Arceneaux and Nicholson piece give specific insight into a political party attributed to polarizing US politics, the Tea Party. In the article, the authors give a profile of the Tea party and confirm some of the long held perceptions of the political entity such as their disdain for President Obama's economic policies. Conversely, the authors elucidate common myths about the party such as the homogenous nature of its supporters and that their values are primarily motivated by racial resentment.
All in all, it is noteworthy that each reading acknowledged the power of a small or elite group of people radically polarizing the political landscape. From Newt Gingrich's cohort of lawmakers resulting in the demise of centrists, the power of Tea Party elites in shaping the movement's perception, to even the use of parliamentary tactics by a small group of legislators that result in polarization-induced-gridlock, an elitist influence is seemingly acting as a catalyst to polarization. As evidenced by Domhoff, while the elite echelon of society might not be directly involved, the polarizing figures of politics (i.e. Newt Gingrich at the Bohemian retreat) are welcoming access to them. As a result, through their resources, the elite's of society are likely proliferating the polarizing narrative of US politics today.
What role do the elite play in political polarization?