Politics is the specific matter for analysis, especially when the subject to be analyzed is American politics. It is obvious that during the recent decades the American political life on the whole, and presidential election campaigns in particular, has become more like a popular show aimed at catching the audience’s interest, rather than a serious socio-economical phenomenon. The books by Morris Fiorina and Drew Westen are the sources of information on contemporary American politics, and therefore the present paper will try to find out whether they are similar or different and whether they contain any proposals of how to overcome the present day dysfunction of the American politics. To achieve this goal the main ideas presented in both books will be summarized, criticized and critically assessed for their use under today’s political circumstances.
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To begin with, it is necessary to consider the major arguments that both authors resort to in trying to support their positions. Thus, the book by Drew Westen can be viewed, first of all, as the manual for the Democratic Party election strategists and leaders for future election campaigns. This statement about the present book can be made after reading and understanding its essence. The author, Drew Westen, who works as a clinical psychologist and an election strategist at Emery University, makes use of his professional knowledge in his attempt to explain why the Democratic candidates have failed the Presidential elections in the recent decades (Westen, 2008). Accordingly, asking the question about the reasons for this situation, the author states that the Republican appeal to the hearts of the voters is rather more useful than the constant trying of the Democratic Party to appeal to the voters’ brains and rational thinking (Westen, 2008).
Being an experienced psychologist, Mr. Westen clearly states that human actions in their vast majority are driven by wishes and pure emotions. Consequently, to exemplify this statement, the author says that if a person feels committed to the ideas of a candidate but likes the personal characteristics of another one better, his vote will be given for the latter. It is a matter of human psychology, while a person is more likely to vote for the candidate who speaks directly and simply and resembles him- or herself to every single voter (Westen, 2008). As a result, after the analysis of the political advertisements from several recent election campaigns, the author concludes that the Democrats have to change their strategy to regain success and the Presidential office (Westen, 2008).
As contrasted to Weston’s work, the book by Fiorina is purely socio-political research aimed at assistance to the voters rather than politicians. The major task of the author in this book is the dismantling of the myth about the cultural, social and political polarization of the American society (Fiorina et al., 2005). The myth widely developed by the media and political strategists has acquired great resonance in the society recently, however the author based on the statistic data claims that “America is a nation closely, but not deeply divided over its political issues” (Fiorina et al., 9) The more Fiorina goes into details of the issue, the more convincing the pieces of his evidence become. For example, in respect of the liberal and conservative states, Fiorina claims that voters are moderate in both politically marked parts of the country, and numerous blues are living in the Red states and vice versa. Moving further on to the burning issues of the society like abortion legalization, homosexual marriage rights, etc., the authors states that over 80% of the nation feels moderate on these issues, and there is no extremism in the society (Fiorina et al., 2005).
To start the discussion of the quality of ideas presented in both books, and of the ways in which they are presented, it is necessary to identify some standards to which the books should conform. Thus, it is obvious that a book, or any other idea expressed in public, must be clear and understandable to its audience. Moreover, these ideas should be adequate and conforming to the requirements of time. Finally, if the ideas mentioned criticize some phenomena, their authors should as well propose ways for improving the situation.
Drawing from this, the book by Drew Westen can be considered as the combination of strong and weak points of its own. Starting with the strong points, it is impossible not to mention that the ideas the book offers are updated and vitally important for the American society. The Democratic Party, receiving support of the majority of voters before elections, fails to get the necessary number of votes to win the Presidential office (Westen, 2008). Thus, showing the reasons for this phenomenon is necessary to develop the strategy of further Party’s activities. Furthermore, the clear and understandable analyses of the campaigning practices implemented by the author add to the credibility of the book. However, there are several weak points in it, including the appeal to the neurology and brain cells reactions which are clear for a relatively small group of readers. Also, the lack of clearly stated possible solutions to the problem is the serious drawback of Westen’s work.
As contrasted to the previous book, Fiorina’s work has fewer weaknesses and can be considered as the reliable and useful source of information on the contemporary political life in the United States. Based on the above presented criteria, the book titled “Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America” is first of all clear and understandable for the diverse groups of readers. It talks about phenomena of reality that are close to any citizen, including health care, equality of rights, elections and political preferences (Fiorina et al., 2005). Even the use of numerous statistical data, figures and tables is not a complication as they can be easily comprehended even by the readers with no financial experience of economically oriented education. Furthermore, the actuality of the issues discussed by the author is evident in the light of the current socio-economic crisis, change of the Government and the complicated international situation. The ideas expressed by Fiorina are the tools to calm the society down and settle all its disputes before they amount to serious conflicts. The only weak point about this work is that there are no solutions to the admitted, though under certain conditions, division of the American society. The author states the problems but looks unready to propose solutions for them, and this point reduces the book’s social importance.
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Finally, in trying to assess the usefulness of the Westen’s and Fiorina’s books for the overcoming of the present day American political dysfunction, it would not be out of place to consider how the ideas of the above mentioned authors are used in practice. First of all, the book by Drew Westen should be assessed, especially in the light of the recent changes on the political scene of the United States. The election of Barack Obama and the long-awaited victory of the Democratic ideas make it possible to assume that Westen’s ideas have been attentively listened to and made use of.
As contrasted to the two previous Democratic campaigns, the latest one was carried out under the slogan of overcoming the crisis in the American society. Financial and economic recession, negative social attitude towards the foreign policies and war expansions of the Republican government made it possible for the Democrats to focus on the global issues that bother most Americans. The image of an ordinary guy able to talk to simple citizens as equal allowed Obama to take the office for the next 4 years, however only the further development of Democratic policies will show how beneficial Westen’s ideas were for them.
As for the practical use of the ideas expressed by Morris Fiorina, it can be considered dually. First of all, the above discussed recent political changes in the USA can be viewed as the result of the consolidation of all the Americans for the sake of overcoming the crisis that touches all people irrespective of their political preferences. Today, American society is as united as it has not been for several decades, and to some extent this could be the practical effect of the book by Fiorina, or people’s understanding of his ideas. The powerful victory of Barack Obama is the manifestation of the trust that the nation has in the new president. Moreover, it is the sign that the myth of culture war and social polarization of the USA was nothing but fiction.
However, the further development of the positive changes promoted by Morris Fiorina is rather complicated due to the lack of practical guidelines as for the ways of improving the situation. The problem being stated, people look for ways to solve it. When there are no offered ways, it is up to people how to interpret this or that process in the society. Accordingly, personal differences and preferences might play a considerable role in the further development of the American society. In any case, however, it can not be denied that the basis for the coming changes could be found in the ideas expressed by Fiorina.
So, to make the respective conclusion to this paper it is necessary to state that the books by Drew Westen and Morris Fiorina are similar in the aspect that they both try to provide comprehensive analyses of the American politics of today. The major difference between the books lies in the approaches that their authors use to carry out their research works and in their focal points. The politically oriented work by Westen is contrasted to the socially directed Fiorina’s book. Unfortunately, the major similarity between the two authors is that they both fail to offer any practical solutions to the problems they discuss. Having stated their topics and criticized the current state of things in politics neither Westen nor Fiorina manage to propose ways out.
- Fiorina, Morris, Samuel J. Abrams, Jeremy C. Pope. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America. Longman, 2005.
- Westen, Drew. The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. PublicAffairs, 2008.