The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Bipartisan system polarizes politicians


infographic by Joy Park

[heading size=”18″]Changed politician demonstrates the perils of party loyalty[/heading]

In psychology classes students conduct a conformity experiment that yields unsurprising, yet unsettling results. The outline follows psychologist Solomon Asch’s classic conformity test.
In Asch’s project, he had several confederates take a “line test” along with one unknowing subject. The experimenter told the group that the line test was to measure their visual perception, although this was not the case. In the test, three lines were displayed with another line marked as the model. The participants were to say which other line matched the height of the model line.
In each case, it was clear what the correct answer was. For the first five set of lines, the confederates, along with the subject would give the correct answer. But on the sixth set, each confederate would state the obviously incorrect answer.
Many times the subject, showing much confusion and trepidation, would also give the incorrect answer even though he clearly knew it was wrong. If the subject didn’t conform the first time, after many rounds of the confederates all giving the incorrect answer, the subject nearly always caved in.
In the political arena, conformity earns candidates senate seats and other positions of power. Many politicians, on both the left and right side, tend to become more liberal or more conservative to gain the approval of their voters and fellow party members. This tendency is referred to as normative social influence.
One of our local politicians, Republican Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who is currently vying for the position of attorney general, is a great example of the power of this normative social influence.
Initially beginning his career as a democrat in 2002, Schaefer emerged in the political playing field as a fairly moderate player. Even after he switched to the Republican party, he wasn’t a radical conservative and occasionally offered liberal remarks.
[gap height=”2″] [button url=”” target=”blank” style=”glass” background=”#2bb673″ color=”#ffffff” radius=”0″ icon=”icon: comments” icon_color=”#3b3838″ text_shadow=”2px 2px 4px #000000″ desc=”Why Kurt Schaefer is the scariest person in Missouri government”]Read a Kansas City Star opinion on Sen. Kurt Schaefer[/button] [gap height=”23″] In 2012, he said he favored “the status quo that we have right now” regarding abortion laws.
Three years later, Schaefer is presenting himself as a very different man, arguably because his main GOP opponent for attorney general, Josh Hawley, is a conservative constitutional lawyer who wrote briefs for Hobby Lobby’s defense in the Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby regarding providing birth control. Schaefer’s holy crusade on Planned Parenthood stands out as his biggest flip-flop, and the one most relevant to Columbians. Schaefer called for the St. Louis obstetrician and gynecologist Colleen McNicholas’ “refer and follow” privileges to be discontinued by the University of Missouri. After placing pressure on the UM, the UM Health Care medical staff voted Sept. 21 to completely eliminate “refer and follow” privileges from the entire system.
But this victory wasn’t enough for Schaefer. He wrote a letter to Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin asking for the discontinuation of a partnership between the UM and the St. Louis Planned Parenthood. The two groups were working on a joint study to “gain a better understanding of the abortion decision-making process” and several UM students were involved in the research. Schaefer said this was a violation of Missouri Revised Statute, Chapter 188, Section 188.205.1 which states, “It shall be unlawful for any public funds to be expended for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion.”
At no point in this study did the students or the advisers perform or assist in an abortion. They were simply collecting data on what causes a woman to opt to have an abortion. Schaefer would never had held such a position in 2008, when he said in a debate on whether embryonic stem cell research should be allowed: “Academic decisions should be made by academics, based on peer review standards and professional standards and not by politicians.”
Schaefer’s sudden switch on abortion and the laws governing the procedure represent only a small portion of his new political persona. The new, fully-republicanized Schaefer has used stamina, pressure and leverage to pass, or at least encourage, dramatic legislature that a past Schaefer would have scoffed at.
[quote]The power-mongering politician today is not like the once moderate, social justice seeker that first graced the Missouri senate ballots. This dramatic shift illuminates the trap of a two-party system, one that creates divide and extremism.[/quote] Earlier this year, Schaefer ‘supported the private sector’ by demanding that Medicaid funding would only be allocated if for-profit companies oversaw the program. Using his power as the appropriations committee chair, a coveted position that decides where large sums of money go to, he was able to pass this legislature without hearings or a solid plan for what this would actually look like. A big change for a man that once said, “as far as restoring 100 percent federal poverty level eligibility [for Medicaid,] I support that.”
Last month, he proposed that the General Assembly abolish Kansas City’s earning tax after the City Council passed an ordinance increasing minimum wage, almost to threaten other cities who might do the same. This was to protect Americans’ “hard earned money” from the greedy, liberal government.
The power-mongering politician today is not like the once moderate, social justice seeker that first graced the Missouri senate ballots. This dramatic shift illuminates the trap of a two-party system, one that creates divide and extremism.
It is easy for people to say, “I am a liberal,” or “I am a conservative,” and to align themselves solely with that ideology, but the world is often much more grey.
Before you sign yourself over to a party, remember there aren’t just two sides to every issue and you don’t have to agree with a certain group on everything. Otherwise, you might become a person you don’t even recognize.
What Schaefer said several years before he lost his identity and turned into the poster child of conservatism perfectly describes the situation, “It is easy to get riled up by extremists’ rhetoric on both sides. Extremists may get elected, but moderates get things accomplished.”

Explain your answer to the poll in the comment section below. 

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Bearing News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    Alexus WoodsJan 1, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    I have personally seen many politicians whom I have admired change into people I don’t recognize, and I have also seen politicians with whom I vehemently disagree with (ahem, Hillary) change into politicians that I can mostly get behind. I think people change their opinions sometimes, and that is okay. But where it gets messy is when someone changes to get votes, and abandons all the things they once stood for.
    I am not a fan of the two-party system as it is, but I do not see how to fix it anytime soon. Obviously it is flawed, but how can we just change the way our democracy is fundamentally composed?