Unit2A_PoliticalCultureandParticipation - 1 Unit 2A...

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1 Unit 2A: Political Opinion and Political Parties The Spectrum of Opinion The Demographics of Opinion The Republican and Democratic Parties Winston Churchill: “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.” Expected Outcomes : To understand the philosophical differences between conservative, liberal, populist and libertarian cultures; to comprehend the impact of race and gender on political opinion; and to evaluate the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. 2A Overview Opinion is the driving force of politics, and this unit examines how opinion acts upon the structures and processes of government (which were described and analyzed in the first part of this course). When a critical mass of citizens feels strongly about an issue, they pressure Congress to pass laws favorable to their opinion or they vote a president in or out. Among the most controversial topics in American society today include: Abortion Stem-Cell Research The Death Penalty Welfare Gun Control The Petroleum Industry The Patriot Act Guantanamo Deficit Spending
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2 School Prayer Regulating the Internet Illegal Immigration Same-sex Marriage Medical Marijuana Mandatory Sentencing The War in Iraq Free Trade Agreements It has been said that Americans are now tending to gravitate toward holding either quite liberal or quite conservative views on the above issues. Fewer people, apparently, occupy the political center than before, but the degree of political distance between one side and another, or “polarization” in American society is difficult to measure, and some political scientists wonder if we are more divided today than a generation ago. Generally speaking, the more passionate one’s opinions are the more active one will participate in politics. Abortion is an emotional issue that creates much activity among “pro-life” and “pro-choice” citizens. Aside from the normal way of participating in politics – voting – these activists join demonstrations, make telephone calls and use the courts to advance their cause. Clearly, polarization is evident today in Congress. Republican and Democratic congressmen are not in agreement regarding numerous issues, such the war in Iraq, health care, and many other issues. One reason for the political polarization in the US is that the Cold War is over. For 50 years, having a common enemy (the USSR) unified Republicans and Democrats on many basic issues. For some reason, the war on terror provided a short-term sense of unity, and political rivalries are today intense. Many congressmen take their political cues from polls, which measure how
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Unit2A_PoliticalCultureandParticipation - 1 Unit 2A...

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