Saturday, March 20, 2010

Motives and Ideology

For my internship I am reading academic political science literature relevant to political parties, finance, and participation. One such article "The Motives-Ideology Connection Among Political Party Activists" that was published in Political Psychology Vol. 17 No. 3 1998 written by Edmond Costantini and Linda O. Valenty from the Political Science Department of the University of California in Davis. The article examines the motives and ideologies of activists in the California Democratic and Republican parties from 1964 to 1990. Though the data might be data it was still revealing. The different ideologies were a range of more liberal to conservative while the motivations were Ambition, Sociality, Purposive, Allegiance.

Ambition is an obvious motivation to enter party politics and I would be lying to myself and my loyal readers if I wrote that I did not have some ambition to enter politics. Sociality or the opportunities for social activity and friendship available in party politics is another reason I entered politics. Many of my dear friends are political junkies like myself and I met them while getting involved in party politics in Rice County. Purposive members and activists are involved to advance policies through their elected officials and ideals within the party mission. As I have mentioned several times in my earlier blog entries and conversations, I am a proponent of universal healthcare, marriage equality, and public education. It makes sense then that I am active in the Democratic party for sure, yet the study reveals that purposive activists are usually more ideologically 'radical' or 'stringent' than ambitious candidates who tend to move towards the center in pursuit of a majority of voters. Moreover, the analysis shows that purposive activists are more amateur than ambitious ones which could also contribute to the popularity of centrist politics in America. This aspect of the political culture also contributes to the continual, exponential decrease of purposive activists in political parties. However, the emergence of the 'Tea Party' might change this trend for the conservative right. The 'Tea Party' seems focused on ideology and policy. They are uncompromising and extremely active, however their impact on electoral politics has yet to be seen.

Yet it seems more and more common that compromises are made during elections. Too many politicians, notably Democrats, cave to pressure and move to the center. Being centrist helps us win elections, but it also limits the expectations for the progress government can achieve.

Finally, Allegiance is another interesting motive. Such activists feel an obligation to party leaders and the party community. My family and I were never really political. I have become a party activist on my own, yet in recent conversations with my grandmother she told me how she remembered FDR and the progress of the New Deal. She has been a Democrat for life. I do not know if I will have that kind of allegiance particularly with the persistence of many of my frustrations with the Democratic party.

All of the aforementioned motivations have been cited by my peers and neighbors as reasons for their political activity. Most times the motives are in combination and are at times challenged by the rate of progress or failures of candidates. Political party attachment however is a powerful force and is necessary for the continuation of a healthy civil society. The challenge of contemporary political parties is how to channel each of these motivations at every ideological alignment to continue strong parties to the elections of 2010, 2012, 2014 and beyond.

A Response to Peggy Noonan

The current mission of this blog was to reflect on my academic readings for my Political Affairs and Finance Internship. However, I was e-mailed this column from Peggy Noonan.

It is title Now For the Slaughter a play on the so called Slaughter Rule or deem and pass rule that will be used by the House to pass the Senate bill. Ms. Noonan insists that President Obama is obfuscating the real disagreements the American people have with healthcare and is not addressing issues of Congressional procedure. First, I am confused. Healthcare already passed both Houses of Congress. A conference procedure has been completed; a procedure that occurs to overcome all of the differences in all House and Senate versions. Now the Senate could vote for healthcare and pass it... again. The current bill is the Senate version anyway. Or they could leave it to the House. Seems simple. Healthcare has been passed by a majority of our representatives. How a bill is passed is the business of Congress.

Never mind that deem and pass, reconciliation, and other procedures have been used by both parties for a variety of pieces of legislation. No one owns the high ground on Congressional procedure. So a question remains, is the argument on procedure the real problem conservatives have with the bill? They argued that the nation cannot afford it. Then the CBO reported that the first ten years of healthcare reform would reduce our deficit by 182 Billion then 1.2 trillion the next ten years. Republicans voted for the Bush Tax Cuts and Medicare Part D when the CBO report on each was dire. Each bill contributed to sending our nation into greater debt. We have a chance to save money and cover 32 million Americans. There is so much good that can be done. Even if you desire a more progressive bill than what is currently being proposed, it is a great first step. Even Former Governor Dr. Howard Dean who made news late in 2009 by breaking ranks with the President recognized that this bill is good legislation and could lead to more reform. If healthcare reform (or as my fellow liberals would want me to say) health insurance reform is passed on Sunday, it is not the end of the world. History will remember that legislation was passed and the implementation will be the next challenge. Let's get it right or much more than this blog entry will seem misguided.

Also, one more thing on the column by Ms. Noonan. She mentions that the President Obama has postponed his state visits to Australia and Indonesia to stay in Washington to help the passage of health care reform is embarrassing. Embarrassing? REALLY? I have spoken to people all over the world and I can tell you what is truly embarrassing to America's image in the world and image abroad is that we have 47 million Americans without health insurance and so many more dropped from their coverage for the sake of a bottom line. THAT IS EMBARRASSING. The President has a simple choice: the health of his people or one of several state visits he will make in his years as President. I am all right with his choice.

Here is the link to the Fox News interview that Peggy Noonan references in her column. It speaks for itself. Mr. Baier should have been more polite, yet the President was right. Healthcare reform is the right thing to do. Period.