Political Groupthink

The 2020 election has been hijacked by the Democrats and the Republicans, as each vies to influence and appeal to the most wide-reaching base as possible. Of course, this is the nature of political discourse. The parties fairly competing for power, as should be the case for the representative nature of the American governmental system, but the motivations of the parties have shifted from the productive debates of the past.

In the past, the Democrat and the Republican Parties had political ideologies that governed the policymaking of each voting representative of the party, a mentality that no longer exists in the divisive landscape of today's political climate. The parties themselves have become the political ideology; the political doctrine that is demanded to be adhered to by all its members as opposed to its members shaping the ideology of the party. The parties become the institutions of political thought, creating a tribalistic divide between the Democrats and the Republicans, the us versus them mindset, two entities, victims of groupthink battling for supremacy to widen their own authority.

By dispelling the culture of misinformation, political apathy and the strict adherence to the policy of party leadership, groupthink can be diminished in modern society to instill the importance of individual contribution and political views.

The most damaging reason as to why Americans are so prone to political groupthink is the way in which the other side portrays the opposing party.

According to Susan Milligan of US News, "Nearly half the country (48%) thinks the Republican Party has been taken over by racists, a view held by 80% of Democrats." This works in the inverse direction as well, with Milligan saying, "And the Democratic Party … Nationally, 44% think it's been taken over by socialists – and 82% of Republicans share that opinion."

The issue lies within the perceptions of the other side. If people believe in the destructive nature of the opposition, then, of course, the alternative seems to be the rational choice. United in hate for the other side, the members of a particular political party, in an effort to beat the opposition, shift the goal of political debate in an unproductive direction.

No longer do elected officials see the purpose of their offices as bettering the nation as a whole. Rather, their inclination is to foster feelings of fear that the other party will make the nation worse. When forming a voting bloc in the form of a political party is the only manner of ensuring this goal, groupthink comes as a natural consequence within the political echo chamber.

In addition to the vilification of the other side, the back and forth and constant bickering between the two parties has left many Americans feeling disaffected by today's politics, breeding a generation of apathetic citizens exhausted with the state of the nation's political system.

According to the United States Census Bureau, only about 61% of American citizens voted in the 2016 presidential election. Americans are being deprived of a candidate with whom they can identify. Instead, many Americans do not vote for a candidate for their ideological views but rather the party they represent. In addition, apathetic voters also are lazy ones who tend to vote on the basis of a singular issue.

Take abortion, for example. According to Lydia Saad of Gallup, "Approximately one in six registered voters (17%) say they will vote only for candidates for major office who share their views on abortion."

This paints a frightening picture for the entire country by recognizing 17% of eligible voters will decide on all political issues simply on the basis of abortion. In general, pro-choice people will vote Democrat and pro-life people will vote Republican without learning about the candidates and where they stand on any other issue. Single-issue voters give the power to the parties to fill out their agenda, imposing the political stance of the party through their candidates.

When considering how the political parties, specifically the leadership manipulates the political platform through the representatives in government, a tremendous amount of power is given to the parties. Americans relinquish their constitutionally mandated authority when voting on a single issue. As such, the influence the party exercises beyond that single issue may not align with the individual's other political preferences.

Political groupthink at the expense of an individual's values is corrosive to our political process. Our government must find a new way of doing things and a reversion to the original intent of our political parties, as a clearing house of ideas and a source of new and better ways of governance.

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