By M. Ulric Killion
Photo: Reuters/Rebecca Cook. “Recently, Atlas Shrugs blogger Pamela Geller -- who is a key player in the Fear Inc. report, decided to focus her anti-Muslim rants at a Muslim GOP candidate, David Ramadan, that former Reagan administration Attorney General and Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation Edwin Meese was helping to support in a local Virginia House of Delegates race,” Steve Clemons, Islamophobia Inc. Targets GOP Muslims, Too, The Atlantic, August 29, 2011.
The Republic Conundrum: How can GOP candidates purport to speak for Americans, while vehemently in both speech and action seeking to deny them the grandest idea of all—an inclusive American society.
—M. Ulric Killion
There is an interesting article recently written by Joseph Bafumi (Dartmouth College) and Joseph M. Parent (University of Miami), which is titled, “International polarity and America’s polarization.”
Their article is insightful and a compelling read, especially their reflections concerning America’s growing political polarization, particularly among elites.
While they do not provide us with definitive answers to the problem of growing political polarization, they did synthesize a complex problem with complex dimensions (i.e., polarization from international to domestic perspectives) for us.
In addition, their article sheds light on the relation between international polarization and domestic (American) polarization. The clearest example of this duality in the polarization processes can be seen in the recent shift in Republican thinking.
According to Sarah Wildman, the shift in Republican thinking, as seen in the speeches and statements (i.e., political discourse) of GOP candidates, resulted in “an unabashed embracing of a brand of anti-Islam rhetoric that is common among the far right leaders of Europe, and one that has become increasingly prevalent in American political discourse since the so-called ‘ground-zero mosque’ controversy.”
As Wildman explained, this variety of American political discourse actually threatened U.S.-Turkey relations (See Sarah Wildman, Perry’s out, but gaffes still poison GOP race, PBS, January 19, 2012, presenting a fuller discussion of anti-Islam rhetoric by Republicans and U.S.-Turkey relations).
While exploring the phenomenon of both international and domestic polarization processes, Bafumi and Parent (2012) presented a well substantiated case for much-needed empirical research addressing the historical problem of growing political polarization.
A clear example of the potential crises that the shift in Republic thinking can produce, for example, is the earlier mentioned case of U.S.-Turkey relations.
Source: Photo; “Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on Sunday disavowed a flyer that claimed he supported ‘equal rights’ for gay citizens and has long been reported to have been distributed by the Massachusetts Republican during his 2002 campaign for governor,” Sam Stein, Mitt Romney Campaign Disavows Pro-Gay Rights Flyer From 2002, Huffington Post, January 9, 2012.
For these reasons, the relevancy of their research and conclusions are obvious.
This is because, notwithstanding President Obama’s “inclusiveness” mission and its potential for promoting greater equality and justice in America, there is the present GOP campaign and its potential to promote greater political polarization, in terms of both international and domestic polarization.
For instance, there are the problems of the GOP’s politics of racism, “an unabashed embracing of a brand of anti-Islam rhetoric” or Islamophobia, and gay bashing or anti-gay bigotry (See Charles M. Blow, Newt Gingrich and the Art of Racial Politics, New York Times, January 17, 2012; No, Shariah Law Is Not Being Imposed In The US, Winning Progressive, December 26, 2011; 10 Quotes That Make Ron Paul Sound Racist, Addicting Info, September 7, 2011; M. Ulric Killion, Republicans fan the flames of America in crisis, January 7, 2012; Andrew Rosenthal, Republican Attacks Have Racist Undertones, New York Times, January 3, 2012).
Source: Photo; Santorum: ‘I don't call you a bigot, you shouldn't call me a bigot’, NECN.com, January 7, 2012; See also Suzanne Gamboa, Rick Santorum Rebuked By Urban League On Comments About Black People On Public Assistance, Huffington Post, January 6, 2012.
Then there is the issue of who are the elites or elitists that are actually responsible for promoting political polarization in America, though the answer seems obvious.
Granted, the GOP candidates will say they are not elitists. Rather, the GOP candidates, as they have done so in the past, will charge that the elitists are Obama, liberals, and Democrats.
For example, there is the earlier statement by Ron Paul, whom attacked President Obama as “a liberal elitist … [who] believes that he knows what is best for people,” (See Jacob Weisberg, Elitist Nonsense - The right's favorite scare word is "elitism.” What does it mean?, Slate, October 2, 2010).
Jacob Weisberg further writes of such misuses by GOP candidates of this French word (i.e., elitism), as follows:
When the rich former CEO of one of America's largest companies casts herself as a victim of elitism, we have surely strayed far from any literal definition of the term. So what do Republicans mean by this French word? Unlike the radical sociologist C. Wright Mills, who popularized the term to describe shared identity based on economic interests, Republicans use it with connotations of education, geography, ideology, taste, and lifestyle—such that a millionaire investment banker who works for Goldman Sachs, went to Harvard, and reads the New York Times is an elitist but a billionaire CEO who grew up in Houston, went to a state university, and contributes to Republicans, is not (Weisberg, 2010).
Weisberg actually presented several examples of misuses of the term, elitism, by both former and present GOP candidates (e.g., Ron Paul, Sharron Apple (the Nevada GOP nominee), John McCain, and Sarah Palin).
He eventually reached a critical conclusion that, “The problem with the GOP’s elite-bashing is not their definition but their contradictions,” (Weisberg, 2010).
Moreover, the GOP debates, if anything, are showing the American public a mind-blowing panoply of contradictions.
Finally, for these reasons, the article written by Joseph Bafumi and Joseph M. Parent, which is “International polarity and America’s polarization,” presents a must read for those interested in the growing crisis of American political polarization.
Joseph Bafumi and Joseph M Parent, “International polarity and America’s polarization,” International Politics (2012) 49, 1–35.
An Abstract of their article follows:
There is a growing consensus that the United States is undergoing a period of political polarization, particularly among elites. The causes of this polarization remain under-researched. We argue that shifts in the international distribution of power influence America's polarization. To demonstrate the argument, this article analyzes changes in power and polarization quantitatively and qualitatively from 1945 to 2005. A key finding is that greater relative power on the world stage substantially increases polarization and some of its correlates, like income inequality. The argument also measures the extent of international influence on domestic polarization and makes novel predictions on when and why polarization will fall.
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