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US Politics in “Culture War” by Morris P. Fiorina

Introduction

The Culture War is a chef-d’oeuvre book by Morris P. Fiorina. The book takes the reader through the political structure and organisation of the American politics with the main argument being that the United States is not polarised. The book is subdivided into 10 chapters with each exploring a different issue. Throughout the book, the author disapproves the argument by certain scholars and politicians that Americans are deeply divided on key national issues. Based on elections data and numerous research findings, the author successfully influences the reader into believing that Americans are united and tolerant, thus disputing claims by politicians and the media that Americans are divided on certain key national issues.

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About the author

The author, Morris P. Fiorina, is one of the most recognised writers of political science books in the world. In his career as a political science scholar, Fiorina has authored numerous articles among them being Representatives, Roll Calls, and Constituencies, Congress-Keystone of the Washington Establishment, Retrospective Voting in American National Elections, The Personal Vote: Constituency Service and Electoral Independence, Home Style and Washington Work, Divided Government, and Civic Engagement in American Democracy. His writing centres mainly on representation and elections in the US. However, his latest work, Culture War, is the most compelling and it has ignited a heated debate among political analysts owing to Fiorina’s controversial views regarding the unity of the Americans.

Importance of the book in the political science field

The book was published at a time when there was a heated debate on the controversial issue regarding the US being polarised with the media and a section of politicians driving citizens into believing that Americans are less united and they differ greatly on key national issues. In the book, Fiorina resolves this dispute by proving that Americans are united. In doing so, he integrates engaging words with charts and graphs derived from election data and his own research. The book explores the most “touchy” issues such as abortion and homosexuality that are believed to be at the heart of the controversy. The author argues that the Americans’ greatest interests lie on the leadership and security and they are less concerned about religion and moral values. The book is an excellent study material for students studying political science. It covers American politics comprehensively in just about 100 pages and the author incorporates humour to make the book attractive to the reader.

Book review

Culture War explores the nature and structure of the American government by outlining the separation of power that exists between various organs making up the government. The book explores American politics more than any other book on the same topic. In explaining his major themes, the author quotes speeches by key politicians in the country. For example, Fiorina starts by quoting words from Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who at one point argued that, inasmuch as people are at liberty to personal opinions, such views should not be taken as facts (Fiorina 16). The author draws a thick line between ideas and facts throughout the book.

The book explores the 2002 elections by painting a picture of the nature of the political differences in the US. In his exploration of the 2002 elections, Fiorina notes that the country is not precipitously divided, but it is intimately divided. The author supports this point by citing particular memorable events. For instance, he cites the famous 1992 speech by Patrick Buchanan at the transition from the Cold War era into the contemporary culture war dispensation by noting that the American society has not embraced extremism in its ideas and thus the majority are moderates, and such individuals cannot form a sharply divided nation.

According to Fiorina, the idea of the culture war is just an illusion fuelled by either perversion of material facts or misconception of key information, for example, the election results. The political division that is evident in American politics according to Fiorina is a misconception caused by statistical manipulation. In the book, the author explores the way in which extreme voices on both sides of the political divide can manipulate, and in fact dictate, the American politics in the media. The author sheds light on how American politics can be influenced by the majority. In addition, Fiorina identifies three main elements, viz. the rise of the classicists, the extension of government, and lastly the escalating level of involvement in democracy in the nation. The aforementioned elements coupled with other factors have a great influence on the American politics and are likely to be dominant in the future.

Structure of the book

The book is systematically broken down into 10 chapters with each chapter analysing a specific item. Chapters 1 and 2 highlight the author’s main argument that the US is not divided on a 50-50 basis between the blue and the red states as earlier claimed by the media and some politicians. Chapter 3, on the other hand, describes the nature of political division in the country, while chapter 4 refutes the conventional notions that the US is divided along historical issues like race and supremacism. In this chapter 4, the author introduces highly complicated issues. Chapter 5 dwells on the topic of abortion and connects it with the primary theme discussed in the preceding chapters. At this point, the author believes that the US is not polarised on the issue of abortion. He asserts that the majority of Americans are ignorant of the laws governing the touchy issue of abortion. He cites gender and age as two factors influencing individuals’ take over the abortion issue. In chapter six, the author discusses homosexuality and the varying opinions about the practice by different people. In chapter seven, the author refutes the misconception that religion has taken the place of economic policies as the deciding factor during voting for one’s preferred presidential candidate. In this chapter, the author analyses the American religion and examines its influence on the voting pattern in the country. Fiorina emphasises that income coupled with religion plays a significant role in determining the voting pattern. Chapter 8 covers the 2004 general election where the author downplays the misconception that the election was decided based on moral values. In chapter 9, the author indicates that the polarisation of partisan elites misinforms the idea that the electorates are shifting emphasis from economics to religious convictions and morality. Chapter 10 highlights the role of extremism in the American political area in the recent past.

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Key strength

One of the major strengths of the book is how the author presents his ideas and arguments. The author arranges his work in chapters that follow a certain systematic sequence. Each chapter introduces the following chapter. The ideas are well thought and evidenced through direct quotes and graphics. The book is summarised, but it covers almost all aspects surrounding the American politics. The author supports his position with quotes from key political leaders. The author also incorporates graphics in his work to illustrate the major themes. The graphics are placed at the end of the page immediately following the text. This strength hinges on the premise that interruptions are minimised since if the graphics are positioned inside the text, they may divert the attention of the reader.

Key weaknesses

The author attempts to sway the reader into supporting his point of view. This aspect is perhaps the most notable weakness surrounding the work by Fiorina. He disregards ideas from other scholars in the same field by assuming superiority of his ideas. In the book, the author terms the idea of the US being polarised as just a misconception. The author also fails in the way he supports his ideas. Even though he uses election data and research, at times, he relies on the lack of evidence to support the apparent divisiveness bedevilling the country. For example, in chapter seven, the author claims that little evidence exists to support the polarisation of America, which is a clear indicator that he takes advantage of the lack of adequate evidence to support polarisation theories.

Conclusion

Fiorina’s work has ignited a heated debate amongst political science scholars. Contrary to the views of the traditional political science scholars that have settled on the idea that the US is polarised in almost every aspect, the author presents a different view on the issue. The author is selective in his choice of words and he integrates graphics and charts with the written texts in an attempt to sway the leader into supporting his point of view. The major argument presented by the author of the book is that the US is not polarised. In a bid to prove his point, he analyses a couple of issues including the controversial case of abortion and homosexuality. The book is divided into 10 chapters with each chapter describing a certain theme.

Works Cited

Fiorina, Morris. Culture war? The myth of polarised America. 2rd ed. 2005. New York: Longman. Print.

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