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Polarization in the Political System 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 p16 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
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