Houjun Liu

SU-COLLEGE110 Second Essay Planning

General Information

Due DateTopicImportant Documents

> Please indicate which prompt you have selected (Q1, Q2, or Q3) at the beginning of your essay.

In recent years, political polarization has increased in many democratic societies. As Diamond has observed, “among the liberal democracies, partisan and ideological polarization is often worrisomely high, while political tolerance and trust have eroded.” This trend also manifests itself in the growing ideological distance between political parties, increasing partisanship among the electorate, and the erosion of civility in public discourse.

Consider the different factors (including social, economic, technological, and cultural influences) that deepen polarization in societies. How do these factors shape the two forms of cleavages described by Diamond (material interests and identity)? Discuss how political polarization influences civic engagement and public participation in democratic processes and the potential strategies to reduce polarization and its negative effects on democracy. In what ways does illiberal populism enhance polarization and, in response to this, what role can political leaders, civil society, the media, and ordinary citizens play in bridging divides and fostering a more inclusive political environment?

  1. what factors causes polarization?
    • (for instance, why does illiberal populism cause polarization)
    • (including social, economic, technological, and cultural influences)
  2. why is polarization bad for democracy?
    • material interests and identity
  3. how do we reduce polarization?
    • what can political leaders, civil society, and the media do about this?

Claim Synthesis

Quotes Bin

Formal channels today took more money than in private before

“The money may have come in brown paper bags in earlier eras, but the politicians needed, and took, much less of it than they take through more formal channels today.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 91]

Campaign lobbying reform made competition more fierce

“Whereas a comfortable, even if not ideal (for the Republicans, at least) detente had reigned for the prior forty-something years, now each side could taste majority status—or, perhaps more important, minority status” [Lessig, 2012, p. 94]

Capital determines success

“if leaders had once been chosen on the basis of ideas, or seniority, or political ties, now, in both parties, leaders were chosen at least in part on their ability to raise campaign cash.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 94]

Polarization is increased by moving towards extremes

“Conservatives on the Right became (even to Reagan Republicans) unrecognizably right-wing.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 97]

“And many on the Left grabbed signature liberal issues to frame their whole movement.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 97]

Finance also influences decisions

“Between 2003 and 2008, Senator Baucus raised more than $5 million from the financial, insurance, and health care industries—precisely the industries whose regula- tion he oversees.30 According to Public Citizen, between 1999 and 2005, “Baucus took in more interest group money than any other senator with the exception of Republican Bill Frist.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 99]

Lobbying has also gotten sophisticated

“The lobbyist today is ethical, and well educated. He or she works extremely hard to live within the letter of the law. More than ever before, most lobbyists are just well-paid policy wonks, expert in a field and able to advise and guide Congress well.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 103]

“Indeed, as we’ll see more later, much of the lobbyist’s work is simply a type of legislative subsidy.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 103]

Allianceships gets formed through gifts

“The gift economy is thus the relationship of friends, or family, or different people trying to build an alliance. It was the way of Native Americans completely misunderstood by their invading “friends."” [Lessig, 2012, p. 108]

Transactional relationship during lobbying

“The gifts within this economy go both ways. Sometimes it is the lobbyist who secures the gift. Sometimes it is the member who makes the gift, expecting the recipient will, as the moniker suggests, reciprocate.” [Lessig, 2012, p. 114]

Current systems relying on political elites to speak for us

“But it is even harder when connected to the second problem: who represents or speaks for “the will of the people.” Do we trust the political elites to speak for us?” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 2]

Because of gerrymandering, there is so few real competition

“In addition, we often have the theory of competitive democracy applied in gerrymandered districts designed so that there will be little competition.” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 4]

Other, non-democratic models seems to fulfill good governance as well

“Some have argued that Singapore, with some of the best technocrats in the world but little popular control over governance, is fulfilling that model.” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 5]

“Our most influential democratic model, competitive elections, seems to have its own competition from apparently benevolent nondemocracies.” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 5]

Even electoral democracies could cause subjugation and illiberal elements

“it is also sometimes the case that electoral competition can incentivize crackdowns and restrictions on liberty, scapegoating minorities (whether political, ethnic, or racial) for political gain” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 6]

Having power to the people may not necessarily mean that people will exercise this power in a thoughtful way

“Around the world, changes in democratic institutions, both formal and infor- mal, have brought “power to the people” but under conditions where the people have little reason or effective incentive to think very much about the power they are supposed to exercise.” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 6]

Disenfranchisement can be framed under the aegis of protecting democracy

“whites re-disenfranchised [African Americans] under Jim Crow for most of a century, largely through devices such as poll taxes and literacy tests, which purported to promote competent voting and prevent fraud” [Fishkin, 2018, p. 14]

Yet, parties maybe necessary to maintain democracy as a form of collective responsibility

New media and false information novel dominated current campaign cycles

“Whereas the stories of the last two campaigns focused on the use of new tools, most of the 2016 story revolves around the online explosion of campaign-relevant communication from all corners of cyberspace. Fake news, social-media bots (automated accounts that can exist on all types of platforms), and propaganda from inside and outside the United States—alongside revolutionary uses of new media by the winning campaign—combined to upset established paradigms of how to run for president.” [Snyder, 2017, p. 63]

Complex media landscape also includes large foreign influence

“How does one characterize a campaign, for example, in which the chief strategist is also the chairman of a media website (Breitbart) that is the campaign’s chief promoter and whose articles the candidate retweets to tens of millions of his followers, with those tweets then picked up and rebroadcast on cable-television news channels, including one (RT, formerly known as Russia Today) that is funded by a foreign government?” [Snyder, 2017, p. 64]

Citizen cynisism about democracy has increased + more support for authoritariasm too

“Citizens in a number of supposedly consolidated democracies in North America and Western Europe have not only grown more critical of their political leaders. Rather, they have also become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives.” [Foa and Mounk, 2016, p. 7]

Support radicalism increased in the younger population

“On the whole, support for political radicalism in North America and Western Europe is higher among the young, and support for freedom of speech lower.” [Foa and Mounk, 2016, p. 8]

The rate of protests has decreased in the younger population

“Historically, citizens have been more likely to engage in protests when they are young. So it is striking that, in the United States, one in eleven baby-boomers has joined a demonstration in the past twelve months, but only one in fifteen millennials has done so. I” [Foa and Mounk, 2016, p. 11]

The wealthy and young harbors more undemocratic sentiments

“Strikingly, such undemocratic sentiments have risen especially quickly among the wealthy.” [Foa and Mounk, 2016, p. 13]

“Remarkably, the trend toward openness to nondemocratic alternatives is especially strong among citizens who are both young and rich.” [Foa and Mounk, 2016, p. 13]

Democracies survive when they are the only option

“In the famous formulation of Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, democracies are consolidated when they are the “only game in town.”8 This meta- phor is as elusive as it is evocative.” [Foa and Mounk, 2016, p. 15]

Freedom is intrinsically tied to democracy; benevolent authoritarianisms are not possible

“But here’s the problem: you cannot have freedom without democracy. That may seem obvious, but it’s a point often lost.” [Diamond, 2019, p. 6]

Undemocratic nations harbour a get-rich-quick mentality, countered by other forces

“In Nigeria, I encountered pervasive greed, incompetence, and waste as the get-rich-quick mentality filtered down to the lowest levels of government. But I also met journalists who were defying the country’s generals to press for a return to civilian rule and academics who were reimagining the country’s future” [Diamond, 2019, p. 10]

Financial erosion from the public also erodes rule of low and encourages despotism

“The money being looted from public coffers in corrupt autocracies is not only sustaining abusive rulers; it is also being laundered into the banking and property systems of the world’s democracies, corroding our own rule of law and undermining our will to confront the spread of despotism.” [Diamond, 2019, p. 12]

Democracy is sustained due to belief in its legitimacy

Opportunism and greed shatters democratic systems

“When democracy withers, it often has a lot to do with what citizens think, believe, and value. Pervasive greed, opportunism, and corruption shatter trust not only in government but in our fellow citizens as well.” [Diamond, 2019, p. 23]

Lack of skepticism foster dictatorship

“Where skepticism is replaced by uncritical enthusiasm and the many-faceted deifications which our complex society makes possible, a fertile soil for dictatorship has been prepared.” [Diamond, 2019, p. 28]

Dictatorship emerges from lack of democratic support

“But as the prospect of EU membership faded, so did the restraints on Erdogan’s strongman instincts. Following the authoritarian playbook of Putin and Chávez, Erdogan and his party solidified control over the judiciary and the civil service, arrested journalists, intimidated dissenters in the press and academia, threatened businesses that might dare to fund opposition parties, and extended control over the media and the internet” [Diamond, 2019, p. 56]

Sub-Claim Development

Illiberality of Democracy is Rising

Key challenge: Even electoral democracies could cause subjugation and illiberal elements. Emperically, democracy has begun to erode through cynacysm in the citizenry.

Democracy is good: Freedom is intrinsically tied to democracy; benevolent authoritarianisms are not possible

One mechanism by which this may take place is through Financial erosion from the public, which also erodes rule of low and encourages despotism.

Influx of Capital is Creating this Illiberal Democracy

Few ways that Capital creates illiberal elements in democracy:

This influx of wealth breaking our democracy results in polarization

DEFINE: Polarization is radicalization: Polarization is increased by moving towards extremes

Conclusion: Because Democracy is good, Less Money in Politics

“but there is nothing benevolent about suppressing an individual’s right to speak, publish, think, pray, rally, satirize, criticize, read, and search the internet.” [Diamond, 2019, p. 6]

Other Stuff

The Claim

One key cause of the erosion and illiberality of a democracy is the influx of monetary capital throughout the political process from campaigning to governance; this influx of capital causes and exasperates illiberality, and in turn creates debilitating polarization which erodes our democracy and creates subjugation. Reducing polarization and restoring democracy, then, requires the reduction of capital influences within all stages of politics.