The single greatest contributor to the way American Politics plays out both within and outside of our borders today is in our rich and long-lasting political culture that defines they way we look as the world and how to respond to it. Shaped by values, history, current events, and emotional commitments that our populace collectively shares, political culture in the United States determines the way government functions and reveals the intricacies of our collective way of life in a way nothing else can.
Throughout our nation’s history there have been three different types of political culture proposed by three different authors as stated below. The first model of conceptualized liberty is a tradition of longstanding liberalism maintained by Myrdal in Wilson’s American Politics. Claiming that American’s naturally crave their individual rights and want their liberty to constitute freedom within the law to do whatever they want as their own person, he states we are a self concerning people with central regard for our own lives independent of the rest of the nation.
This style of political culture emerged the greatest during the 60s when individualists like hippies and protestors came out against the large Model II type government that strove to provide and manage the people in the overbearing sense it did. Today’s culture draws strong parallels to liberalism as well, with most Americans concerned for their own rights first. An example of this is the dog laws imposed in New York where dogs cannot be off a leash or make excessive noise in Central Park that distracts other people.
Some people feel they are having their right to quiet and safety violated by these dogs and the laws behind them, while others maintain it is their right to have dogs and be able to run them freely. The second claim is of political culture is the one that was created in the grand scheme by the founding fathers and proposed by Hartz. This perception of liberty claims that there is a collectivist notion of unity among the people that promotes the general welfare of the nation as a whole and not just based on individual rights.
First established by puritan settlers who wanted to build a “city on a hill” with a strong central purpose and unity among its citizens, the concept of a strong government that united the people in one common goal to achieve the greater good became known as republicanism. This concept of liberty is alive today as the populace stands united against the global threat of terrorism that threatens all American’s equally.
To protect each other and nation as a whole American’s look to the greater good beyond their personal rights to sustain the nation’s security. An example is in people’s ability to forego some of their individual rights in the patriot act or at airports to give up some privacy to keep them safe from terrorists in order to maintain the greater good of the nation. The third perception of liberty is proposed by Roger M. Smith who states that America is traditionally hierarchical and is driven by social and economic classes that preside over others.
This concept has been prevalent for hundreds of years in times of slavery and civil unrest when African Americans and other surges of immigrants were oppressed and looked upon as outsiders by the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants that formed the backbone of the nation. While civil rights have been passed to make the nation equal for all, Smith argues an underlying factor of racism and inequality among minorities still lingers in the heart of America. An example of this is the Duke Lacrosse Scandal where three elite white males were charged in the rape of a black woman and media frenzy that ensued around it.
Claiming that the white males thought themselves superior and able to escape consequences for crimes against minorities, African American leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson came out in force to lead rallies for their prosecution. Another parallel is Hurricane Katrina and the thousand of black residents displaced by it in 2005. Most of the 9th district of New Orleans was destroyed by the storm because it sat unprotected and vulnerable and to this day it remains in shambles with little done to improve the area.
Smith would argue this is because of the racial and economic hierarchy that differentiates the poor African American residents of the area from the white controlling politians with the power to do anything about it. While all these three conceptions of liberty are prevalent and present in today’s political culture, the structure of our government and the speed with which the world changes does not allow any one style to dominate the rest. Americans live off and pride themselves on their civil individual rights while at the same time unifying collectively to stand as one against outside threats like terrorism.
There is some hierarchical dissonance that remains in the actions of many government officials and elite pockets of society separated from citizens of different economic standing and ethnicity, but after the civil rights laws were passed the vast majority of these problems have been removed. This leaves the United States with a balanced and ever changing political culture that hinges back and forth between the three conceptions of liberty.