Group Polarization and Competitioning Political Behavior

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, January 1996

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On Tuesday, November 14, 1995, in what has been perceived as the years

biggest non-event, the federal

government shut down all 'non-essential' services due to what was, for

all intents and purposes, a game of national

'chicken' between the House Speaker and the President. And, at an

estimated cost of 200 million dollars a day, this

dubious battle of dueling egos did not come cheap (Bradsher, 1995,

p.16). Why do politicians find it almost congenitally

impossible to cooperate? What is it about politics and power that seem

to always put them at odds with good

government? Indeed, is an effective, well run government even possible

given the current adversarial relationship

between our two main political parties? It would seem that the exercise

of power for its own sake, and a competitive

situation in which one side must always oppose the other on any issue,

is incompatible with the cooperation and

compromise necessary for the government to function.

As the United

States becomes more extreme in its beliefs in

general, group polarization and competition, which requires a mutual

exclusivity of goal attainment, will lead to more

'showdown' situations in which the goal of good government gives way to

political posturing and power-mongering.

In this paper I will analyze recent political behavior in terms of two

factors: Group behavior with an emphasis

on polarization, and competition. However, one should keep in mind that

these two factors are interrelated. Group

polarization tends to exacerbate inter-group competition by driving any

two groups who initially disagree farther apart in

their respective views. In turn, a competitive situation in which one

side must lose in order for the other to win (and

political situations are nearly always competitive), will codify the

differences between groups - leading to further

extremism by those seeking power within the group...