Why Identities Are Important (Reading Response P05 – Politics & Competition)

The article titled “Political Competition, Partisanship and Interpersonal Trust in Electoral Democracies” is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The reason for this is the relevance to today’s context. With identity politics being more prevalent than ever (such as Donald Trump’s victory and very recently with the election of the far-right and new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro), it is important to discuss what might lead to highly controversial people becoming elected within a country.

There were two main phenomena that the article discussed. They were trust and partisanship. By utilizing an adequate attempt of empirical evidence (every data point is set by values, and subject to change at all times, which detracts credibility), the writers concluded that biases are present when talking to people with other political beliefs. The article argues that people are less likely to trust others if their political identities (affiliation to political parties) are different, and display more partisanship towards their affiliated political party. This in turn makes discourse more difficult, with the possibility of conflict between people with differing  political opinions. This is likely exacerbated by today’s social media, since (in my personal experience of surroundings) people constantly use it to create and/or maintain echo chambers, which shut out the possibility of discourse and trust between people with differing political views.

With this, the issue has been identified. There are times in which people take refuge in their own political identity as a way to satisfy their own beliefs, which can lead to a problem I like to call “blind devotion”, in which people highly trust and go along with a particular leader’s orders without even knowing what the implications of said orders and without considering who the leader even is.  There are times in which said devotion is a good thing (sometimes a nation really needs a change and a political candidate, when seen from an outsider’s perspective, can be benign), and others in which it leads to controversy (see Bolsonaro and Trump). With this, there are a few questions that should be asked:

  • Why do people take shelter in their own beliefs?
  • Can there be a way to make productive discourse more consistently present among people with differing political beliefs?
  • Exactly which previous historical examples can be learned of to not repeat their mistakes?

 

In conclusion, the paper states that there are differences in trust and partisanship between one’s affiliated political party and the opposing political parties (and their affiliated people). This identifies the problem, and makes questions arise about how to bring a real-world solution.

 

(Image credits to Circle In)

3 Comments

  1. To begin, thank you for your reading response as I too share your opinion that the wedge between political parties creates “echo rooms” in which the same, close-minded arguments and views are unnecessarily repeated. However, when these “echo rooms” are opposed on nationally televised events such as presidential debates, some argue that the fierce desire to contradict the competing political party acts as an extrinsic motivation to develop and create better supporting arguments. Therefore, considering this argument for “echo rooms”, what would you propose as a balanced solution for inevitably biased discourse?

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  2. HI! Thanks for your reading response. I”ve been thinking about what you said about devotion to benign leaders, because for me devotion to one particular person as a leader does not sit right, because it reminds me of dictatorships etcetera. Do you think a state can be truly democratic when the majority of people is loyal to one particular person?

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  3. @vlessard2014 I’d propose competent moderation and broadcasting. While it will be inevitable that some people take sides (and sometimes, blindly devote themselves to them), I think that an unbiased debate occurs when a neutral audience can see the arguments for what they objectively stand for and what the speakers are trying to accomplish, as well as make their own qualitative evaluations of them without struggling to obtain information from either side. This means to have a moderator that is competent so that the arguments that each side makes can be stated to the fullest extent possible (within the time-limit constraints of a debate), and it also means to have a competent broadcaster so that the ideas can be shown to people with the least amount of bias to them as possible.

    @elisejuncker I believe if the majority of people are loyal to one person and there is proof of said loyalty it does become a democracy. This is because in democratic systems, the outcome of the decisions is most often one that favors the beliefs of the majority of voters.
    Knowing that (in political theory) a democratic state is one that allows free and fair elections, the massive loyalty would be demonstrated by a particular person having the majority of voters. This can be evidenced by the most recent elections in Mexico (July 2018), where there were four candidates and the winner (Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with a newly established party named MORENA) was able to obtain over 50% of the popular vote. The reason this is a democracy is because the majority vote serves as proof that the majority of people were devoted to him. The state becomes a dictatorship when there is no proof of the devotion to a leader, even when the leader is benign.

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