The Consequence Of Political Polarization*

 Bandwagon Bias Is The Culprit

Polarization: Division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs.

Bandwagon Bias: Our tendency to go along with belief systems of groups we are involved with. Also known as: Bandwagon Effect and Bandwagon Fallacy.

Group Think: The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

The belief systems of today’s republican and democratic political parties are a good example of polarization, the bandwagon bias and group think. This, of course, has always been true of American political parties. But recently it seems to have gone to an extreme. The worldwide consequence of this phenomenon today is staggering.

The problem with polarization, bandwagon bias, and group think is that they inhibit good decision making. Possible Political Polarization Damage:

  • Lacks personal responsibility
  • Discourages creativity
  • Ignores the common good
  • Precludes compromise and negotiation
  • Eliminates critical evaluation
  • Results in irrational or dysfunctional decision making
  • Sees no need to examine the possible alternatives or the potential consequences — just go along with my side (“my side bias”)

Going along  with the belief system of one’s group, causes these consequences that are harmful, and even dangerous, for a democracy. Notice: this collateral damage to a democracy is also true when the electorate is also polarized. When both the congress and the voters are polarized, the damage is doubled. And in both politicians and the voters there is often more than two sides. Is there a solution?

The solution is a revival of a sense of national identity that is both inclusive and meaningful, Francis  Fukuyama.

 We can only hope that citizens dissatisfaction fosters political engagement through activities such as protests, mobilization and pressure on public officials. Democratic activities are the best, and only, way to resolve crises in democracy, Didi Kuo.

I, of course, have been promoting a collective worldview that is open and inclusive. Can politicians and voters become open and inclusive? What do you think?

*This blog is the result of my reading the article, “A Deafening Divide” about political polarization, in the Stanford Magazine, May 2018. Nine Stanford scholars comment.

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  1. Eugene Unger says:

    Thought provoking H! True to our times! Although, one word you used, ( “ Inclusive”) causes a third problem for me. A broad political term that does not describe inclusion but separates us further by separating us by our beliefs! Inclusion really becomes a tool to exclude others that don’t think like me! H, look what you caused! Your friend . G



  2. Marianne says:

    As to Gene’s point. If I include all in “my group” that does exclude all others. However, I think of inclusive of including all people of different beliefs as well as people from my own group. I agree this would be best, but realize I have a hard time including into “my” group those who think differently than I do, politically. I find I don’t have anything to talk about or if I do I feel as if I am walking in a mine field. Hopefully, I am more broad minded in other parts of my life like religion, Hmm maybe not quite broad minded there but more so than politics. I have work to do on this, but I find I don’t want to spend time trying to understand a political belief that I think is really not right.

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