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Group Polarization and Competitionin Political Behavior On Tuesday November 14 1995 in what has been perceived as the yearsbiggest non-event the federalgovernment shut down all non-essential services due to what was forall intents and purposes a game of nationalchicken between the House Speaker and the President And at anestimated cost of 200 million dollars a day thisdubious battle of dueling egos did not come cheap Bradsher 1995p16 Why do politicians find it almost congenitallyimpossible to cooperate What is it about politics and power that seemto always put them at odds with goodgovernment Indeed is an effective well run government even possiblegiven the current adversarial relationshipbetween our two main political parties It would seem that the exerciseof power for its own sake and a competitivesituation in which one side must always oppose the other on any issueis incompatible with the cooperation andcompromise necessary for the government to function As the UnitedStates becomes more extreme in its beliefs ingeneral group polarization and competition which requires a mutualexclusivity of goal attainment will lead to moreshowdown situations in which the goal of good government gives way topolitical posturing and power-mongering In this paper I will analyze recent political behavior in terms of twofactors Group behavior with an emphasison polarization and competition However one should keep in mind thatthese two factors are interrelated Grouppolarization tends to exacerbate inter-group competition by driving anytwo groups who initially disagree farther apart intheir respective views In turn a competitive situation in which oneside must lose in order for the other to win andpolitical situations are nearly always competitive will codify thedifferences between groups - leading to furtherextremism by those seeking power within the group - and thus to furthergroup polarization In the above example the two main combatants Bill Clinton and NewtGingrich were virtually forced to takeuncompromising disparate views because of the very nature of authoritywithin their respective political groups Grouppolarization refers to
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