California shows how raising the influence of moderates increases functional government

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

While there is certainly reason to be cautious in proclaiming California's only recently functional legislature as a success, recent legislative success, with Republicans backing liberal ideas and Democrats backing conservative ideas, suggests that some recent structural reforms have created a more civil and functional legislative environment.  Among the reforms recently enacted are:

- Redistricting by a non-partisan commission, leading to more balanced/competitive districts
- Non-partisan primaries, where the top 2 finishers, regardless of party, run against each other.

Both of these reforms make politicians more accountable to the broader electorate, instead of to the more extreme members of each party which tend to dominate partisan primaries.  

At CivilPolitics, we feel that these reforms are particularly likely to be the cause of a more civil legislative environment, given that their effect would have been predicted by research on "the dark side of moral conviction", which illustrates how our noble intentions can often lead us to be blind to the negative side-effects of realizing these intentions.  Introducing accountability to those who are more balanced in terms of their worldviews will naturally mitigate the danger of excess moral conviction leading to extreme political positions, of the sort that have led Washington D.C. to dysfunction.

From the New York Times:

“It’s given more courage to my Republican colleagues,” he said. “They were afraid of getting primaries. Now, it’s not just their base they have to appeal to.”

Adam Mendelsohn, a former senior adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who championed the ballot changes, said they were altering the nature of the Legislature but also his own party.

“It gives Republicans the chance to break from their caucus on certain issues,” he said. “It is very different than it was four or five years ago.”

Democrats may also be changing. The state Chamber of Commerce reported last month that 39 of the 40 bills it had described as “job-killing” — regulatory legislation that typically was supported by Democrats — had been defeated this year.

“In the freshman class, a lot of the folks had moderate voting records,” said Anthony Rendon, a Democrat who was elected to the State Assembly last year, evidence of the need for many legislators to appeal beyond the Democratic base.

- Ravi Iyer

 

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California shows how raising the influence of moderates increases functional government

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

While there is certainly reason to be cautious in proclaiming California's only recently functional legislature as a success, recent legislative success, with Republicans backing liberal ideas and Democrats backing conservative ideas, suggests that some recent structural reforms have created a more civil and functional legislative environment.  Among the reforms recently enacted are:

- Redistricting by a non-partisan commission, leading to more balanced/competitive districts
- Non-partisan primaries, where the top 2 finishers, regardless of party, run against each other.

Both of these reforms make politicians more accountable to the broader electorate, instead of to the more extreme members of each party which tend to dominate partisan primaries.  

At CivilPolitics, we feel that these reforms are particularly likely to be the cause of a more civil legislative environment, given that their effect would have been predicted by research on "the dark side of moral conviction", which illustrates how our noble intentions can often lead us to be blind to the negative side-effects of realizing these intentions.  Introducing accountability to those who are more balanced in terms of their worldviews will naturally mitigate the danger of excess moral conviction leading to extreme political positions, of the sort that have led Washington D.C. to dysfunction.

From the New York Times:

“It’s given more courage to my Republican colleagues,” he said. “They were afraid of getting primaries. Now, it’s not just their base they have to appeal to.”

Adam Mendelsohn, a former senior adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican who championed the ballot changes, said they were altering the nature of the Legislature but also his own party.

“It gives Republicans the chance to break from their caucus on certain issues,” he said. “It is very different than it was four or five years ago.”

Democrats may also be changing. The state Chamber of Commerce reported last month that 39 of the 40 bills it had described as “job-killing” — regulatory legislation that typically was supported by Democrats — had been defeated this year.

“In the freshman class, a lot of the folks had moderate voting records,” said Anthony Rendon, a Democrat who was elected to the State Assembly last year, evidence of the need for many legislators to appeal beyond the Democratic base.

- Ravi Iyer

 

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Helping MoveOn.org and the Tea Party Find Common Ground

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

CivilPolitics.org is undergoing a transition where we move from trying to bring groups and individuals together to leveraging our academic/research expertise to support other groups doing such work.  One such organization that we are working with is Living Room Conversations, a group founded by MoveOn.org co-founder Joan Blades, in collaboration with a former GOP-operative.  In an experience that dovetails well with research showing that personal relationships matter and finding common goals helps create common ground, we were recently heartened to hear how she invited Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, over to her house for tea.  According to the article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

[Living Room Conversations] involves one or two co-hosts pulling together an intimate gathering of folks who might believe they agree on little politically – until they sit down together to listen to one another's perspective. Civilly…  Eventually, they find places they agree…After three hours of watching one another's media caricatures evaporate, the six decided that, for starters, they'd all support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act….Too often, outfits like MoveOn and the Tea Party get so wrapped up in beating each other in the partisan, Twitter-driven politics of the moment that they don't take time to see who is picking both of their pockets.
 

If you'd like to support the efforts of Living Room Conversations, consider signing their petition available at this link.

- Ravi Iyer

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Helping MoveOn.org and the Tea Party Find Common Ground

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

CivilPolitics.org is undergoing a transition where we move from trying to bring groups and individuals together to leveraging our academic/research expertise to support other groups doing such work.  One such organization that we are working with is Living Room Conversations, a group founded by MoveOn.org co-founder Joan Blades, in collaboration with a former GOP-operative.  In an experience that dovetails well with research showing that personal relationships matter and finding common goals helps create common ground, we were recently heartened to hear how she invited Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, over to her house for tea.  According to the article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

[Living Room Conversations] involves one or two co-hosts pulling together an intimate gathering of folks who might believe they agree on little politically – until they sit down together to listen to one another's perspective. Civilly…  Eventually, they find places they agree…After three hours of watching one another's media caricatures evaporate, the six decided that, for starters, they'd all support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act….Too often, outfits like MoveOn and the Tea Party get so wrapped up in beating each other in the partisan, Twitter-driven politics of the moment that they don't take time to see who is picking both of their pockets.
 

If you'd like to support the efforts of Living Room Conversations, consider signing their petition available at this link.

- Ravi Iyer

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Progress on Debt Ceiling shows us how Moderates can temper the Dark Side of Moral Conviction

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

As I write this, reports indicate that moderate Republicans (Susan Collins) and Democrats (Joe Manchin) appear to be spearheading bipartisan talks to avoid the economic consequences of a debt default and also end the partial government shutdown.  This is in marked contrast to partisans on the left who are willing to endure some economic hardship to regain political power and partisans on the right who are willing to endure some economic hardship to achieve policy goals.

Strong partisans tend to have strong moral convictions, which can certainly lead to pro-social behavior in many cases.  One principle of practicing political civility is to try to accept the genuine good intentions of others, and I have little doubt that those on the left and right have good intentions for the country.  Yet psychological research on moral conviction shows how it is precisely those individuals with the strongest moral desires who are often willing to overlook the consequences of their actions (e.g. shutting down the government and threatening to breach the debt ceiling) in service of their goals.  

This review paper by Linda Skitka and Elizabeth Mullen provides a nice overview of this research:  

Although moral mandates may sometimes lead people to
engage in prosocial behaviors, they can also lead people to disregard procedural safeguards. This article briefly reviews research that indicates that people become very unconcerned with how moral mandates are achieved, so long as they are achieved. In short, we find that commitments to procedural safeguards that generally protect civil society become psychologically eroded when people are pursuing a morally mandated end. Understanding the “dark side” of moral conviction may provide some insight into the motivational underpinnings of engaging in extreme acts like terrorism, as well as people’s willingness to forego civil liberties in their pursuit of those who do.

 

It is precisely for these reasons that partisan gerrymandering, which makes politicians accountable to the extremes who vote in primaries as opposed to moderates, threatens to lead to more future crises.  If moderates like Olympia Snowe leave and their influence is replaced by hardliners like Ted Cruz, we are all bound to suffer the consequences of their moral conviction.

- Ravi Iyer

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Progress on Debt Ceiling shows us how Moderates can temper the Dark Side of Moral Conviction

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

As I write this, reports indicate that moderate Republicans (Susan Collins) and Democrats (Joe Manchin) appear to be spearheading bipartisan talks to avoid the economic consequences of a debt default and also end the partial government shutdown.  This is in marked contrast to partisans on the left who are willing to endure some economic hardship to regain political power and partisans on the right who are willing to endure some economic hardship to achieve policy goals.

Strong partisans tend to have strong moral convictions, which can certainly lead to pro-social behavior in many cases.  One principle of practicing political civility is to try to accept the genuine good intentions of others, and I have little doubt that those on the left and right have good intentions for the country.  Yet psychological research on moral conviction shows how it is precisely those individuals with the strongest moral desires who are often willing to overlook the consequences of their actions (e.g. shutting down the government and threatening to breach the debt ceiling) in service of their goals.  

This review paper by Linda Skitka and Elizabeth Mullen provides a nice overview of this research:  

Although moral mandates may sometimes lead people to
engage in prosocial behaviors, they can also lead people to disregard procedural safeguards. This article briefly reviews research that indicates that people become very unconcerned with how moral mandates are achieved, so long as they are achieved. In short, we find that commitments to procedural safeguards that generally protect civil society become psychologically eroded when people are pursuing a morally mandated end. Understanding the “dark side” of moral conviction may provide some insight into the motivational underpinnings of engaging in extreme acts like terrorism, as well as people’s willingness to forego civil liberties in their pursuit of those who do.

 

It is precisely for these reasons that partisan gerrymandering, which makes politicians accountable to the extremes who vote in primaries as opposed to moderates, threatens to lead to more future crises.  If moderates like Olympia Snowe leave and their influence is replaced by hardliners like Ted Cruz, we are all bound to suffer the consequences of their moral conviction.

- Ravi Iyer

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The Psychological Principles Contributing to a Government Shutdown

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

As I write this, the government has been shutdown for four days which represents a clear failure of politicians to come together and put our nation first.  Much has been written about the shutdown, but CivilPolitics' niche in the world of political writing is to highlight how psychological principles are at work during both civil and uncivil interactions.  

Among the psychological principles at work are:

- A breakdown in relationships amongst individuals from conflicted parties.  We are all human beings first and act on our feelings as much as our reason.  While Congressman Stutzman's quote that Republicans are "not going to be disrespected" are being criticized, the reality is that mutual respect and collegial feelings amongst negotiating parties are indeed important in reaching agreement.  So when Harry Reid calls Boehner a coward, it really does reduce the likelihood of an agreement, as even if it doesn't affect Boehner explicitly, it certainly changes the nature of relationships amongst them and makes it harder to reach mutual understanding.  This effect is not limited to the parties involved as research on the extended contact effect illustrates how negativity amongst members of two groups can affect relationships between all members of conflicted groups.  In contrast, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had a personal relationship where they talked nightly during the previous shutdown.

- The outsized influence of those with extreme moral conviction.  Research on "the dark side of moral conviction" shows how those with ostensibly good intentions can become blind to the negative consequences of their actions, in service of their goals.  The more extreme one's moral convictions are, the greater the effect, and many Republicans represent districts that have one-sided moral convictions and therefore have no reason to try to come to a middle ground.  Only 17 Republicans come from districts that Obama won (compared to 79 during Clinton's presidency), and partisan redistricting makes it increasingly unlikely that moderates will provide a check on those with more extreme moral convictions.

- A lack of focus on shared goals (e.g. keeping the government functioning) instead of on conflicting goals (e.g. Obamacare).  Realistic conflict theory and examining moments in history where partisans come together, shows us that compromise and cooperation is often a result of shared goals.  Indeed, moderates are leading the charge toward compromise.  Below is a humorous video where Republican moderate Scott Riggell (who comes from one of the few districts that is not so partisan) explicitly notes that even as he opposes the "Unaffordable Care Act", he recognizes that there is a higher goal at stake.

I'm not sure how we can transcend the current crisis, but hopefully reading the current political news from this perspective can inform an understanding of future debates and help us collectively create situations that no longer lead us to these types of self-inflicted crises.

- Ravi Iyer

 

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The Psychological Principles Contributing to a Government Shutdown

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

As I write this, the government has been shutdown for four days which represents a clear failure of politicians to come together and put our nation first.  Much has been written about the shutdown, but CivilPolitics' niche in the world of political writing is to highlight how psychological principles are at work during both civil and uncivil interactions.  

Among the psychological principles at work are:

- A breakdown in relationships amongst individuals from conflicted parties.  We are all human beings first and act on our feelings as much as our reason.  While Congressman Stutzman's quote that Republicans are "not going to be disrespected" are being criticized, the reality is that mutual respect and collegial feelings amongst negotiating parties are indeed important in reaching agreement.  So when Harry Reid calls Boehner a coward, it really does reduce the likelihood of an agreement, as even if it doesn't affect Boehner explicitly, it certainly changes the nature of relationships amongst them and makes it harder to reach mutual understanding.  This effect is not limited to the parties involved as research on the extended contact effect illustrates how negativity amongst members of two groups can affect relationships between all members of conflicted groups.  In contrast, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had a personal relationship where they talked nightly during the previous shutdown.

- The outsized influence of those with extreme moral conviction.  Research on "the dark side of moral conviction" shows how those with ostensibly good intentions can become blind to the negative consequences of their actions, in service of their goals.  The more extreme one's moral convictions are, the greater the effect, and many Republicans represent districts that have one-sided moral convictions and therefore have no reason to try to come to a middle ground.  Only 17 Republicans come from districts that Obama won (compared to 79 during Clinton's presidency), and partisan redistricting makes it increasingly unlikely that moderates will provide a check on those with more extreme moral convictions.

- A lack of focus on shared goals (e.g. keeping the government functioning) instead of on conflicting goals (e.g. Obamacare).  Realistic conflict theory and examining moments in history where partisans come together, shows us that compromise and cooperation is often a result of shared goals.  Indeed, moderates are leading the charge toward compromise.  Below is a humorous video where Republican moderate Scott Riggell (who comes from one of the few districts that is not so partisan) explicitly notes that even as he opposes the "Unaffordable Care Act", he recognizes that there is a higher goal at stake.

I'm not sure how we can transcend the current crisis, but hopefully reading the current political news from this perspective can inform an understanding of future debates and help us collectively create situations that no longer lead us to these types of self-inflicted crises.

- Ravi Iyer

 

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Examining Regional Voting Differences with Ranker’s Polling Widget

Reposted from this post on the the Ranker Data Blog

Ranker has a new program where we offer a polling widget to partner sites who want the engagement of a poll in list format (as opposed to the standard radio button poll).  Currently, sites that use our poll (e.g. TheNextWeb or CBC) are seeing 20-50% of visitors engaging in the poll and an increase in returning visitors who want to keep track of results.  We also give partners prominent placement on Ranker.com (details of that here), but a benefit that is less obvious is the potential insights from one’s users that one can gain from the data behind a poll.  To illustrate what is possible, I’m going to use data from one of our regular widget users, Phish.net, who posted this poll on Phish’s best summer concert jams.

One piece of data that Ranker can give partners is a regional breakdown of voters.  Unsuprisingly, there were strong regional differences in voting behavior with voters from the northeast often choosing a jam from their New Jersey show, voters from the west coast often choosing a jam from their Hollywood Bowl show, voters from the south often choosing a jam from their Maryland show, voters from the midwest often choosing a jam from their Chicago show, and voters from the mountain region often choosing a jam from their show at The Gorge.  However, the interesting thing to me was that the leading jam in every region was Tweezer – Lake Tahoe from July 31st.  As someone who believes that better crowdsourced answers are produced by aggregating across bias and who has only been to 1 Phish concert, I’m definitely going to have to check out this jam.  Perhaps the answer is obvious to more experienced Phish fans, but the results of the poll are certainly instructive to the more casual music fan who wants a taste of Phish.

Below are the results of the poll in graphical format.  Notice how the shows cluster based on venue and geography except for Tweezer – Lake Tahoe which is directly in the center of the graph.

If you’re interested in running a widget poll on your site, the benefits are more clearly spelled out here and you can email us at “widget at ranker.com”.  We’d love to provide similar region based insights for your polls as well.

- Ravi Iyer

 

Reposted from Ranker Data Blog

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Hillary Clinton’s Prescription for Partisan Gridlock is Similar to Chris Christie’s

Reposted from this post on the Civil Politics Blog

Given the attention that Hillary Clinton is getting from the press, it is worth noting her prescription for reducing partisan gridlock dovetails well with research on how superordinate/shared goals leads to cooperation and common ground.

When asked for her prescription for partisan gridlock, Clinton sees an opportunity not unlike what Obama saw in 2008. ­“People are stereotypes, they are caricaturized,” says Clinton. “It comes from both sides of the political aisle, it comes from the press. It’s all about conflict, it’s all about personality, and there are huge stakes in the policies that are being debated, and I think there’s a hunger amongst a very significant, maybe even a critical mass of Americans, clustered on the left, right, and center, to have an adult conversation about how we’re going to solve these problems … but it’s not for the fainthearted.” For now, Hillary’s strategy is to sail above these conflicts, mostly by saying nothing to inflame them. “I have a lot of reason to believe, as we saw in the 2012 election, most Americans don’t agree with the extremists on any side of an issue,” says Clinton, “but there needs to continue to be an effort to find common ground, or even take it to higher ground on behalf of the future.”

Of course, diagnosing the issue and actually solving it are two very different things as we haven't seen a reduction in partisanship during Obama's presidency, so somehow her prescription may have to change if we are to expect a different outcome from a hypothetical Clinton presidency.  Chris Christie has a similar view of the importance of "getting things done" over partisanship, and also has a track record of transcending gridlock as governor of New Jersey.  In coming months, we will try to highlight quotes concerning overcoming gridlock from all potential 2016 candidates, especially as they relate to psychological research on incivility.

- Ravi Iyer

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