A Good Citizen Essay Example

The defining of a good citizen within the American ideal is currently under direct reconstruction. When deciding upon the makeup of a good citizen, it is a necessity to distinctly categorized the shift in ideals since the 1950s. The direct effect of change has been in what significant changes centered around: pre-1950's changes revolved around technological innovations; whereas, those that have occurred since stem around cultural issues. This shift has resulted in the formation of two distinct ideologies of what collectively defines good citizenship: duty verses engaged. While both identities center around the role to which Americans take on active engagement in citizenship, neither distinctively declares ways in which engaging opposing ideals should be proposed. This neglect in determining the proper course of action in engaging what the other would define as the "bad citizen" has led to a road of building walls between the identity politics of us versus them: good verses bad. Partisanship is the outcome of this unwillingness to compromise on the figurative title each group proclaims as good citizenship. Good citizens exercise opinion, whether through the ballot box or a boycott, by being academically informed on an issue and having logical justification for their stance. Partisanship as it stands today is driven through intense party loyalty and not on truly researched personal sentiments. Whether its conservative versus liberal ideologies or duty verses engaged practice of citizenship, one thing is certain: bad citizenship exists where uncompromising partisanship begins.

Definition of Good Citizen

The notion of being ill-informed on an issue objectifies Dalton's defined terms for good citizenship. A duty-based citizen would not be partisan as a criterion of possessing such distinction is supporting the government. It is profoundly expressed in the text that whether the opposing side is in power, a duty-based citizen still offers support to the government. Although supporting the government does not entail agreeing with every position of the figure in power, one must remember that a duty citizen supports the notion that American elections are fair in their process. As such sentiment is expressed, supporting the government entails that procedures and laws remain intact. Partisanship has expressly defined such ability as individuals in power who seek compromise and bipartisanship are no longer supported by their base. Partisanship has created a divide that makes seeking government efficiency in representing the interest of all Americans, and not just those of an individual base, entirely unattainable. Government is derived in fact by the people and for the people and seeing as partisanship separates the people into two distinct sides deadlocked in a stalemate, a good citizen who prescribes to the duty-based principles would not be partisan.

A continuation of this principle applies to the makeup of engaged citizenship being the composition of good citizens. A key identifier of engaged citizens is that they try to understand others, and as such they intend to be informed of opposing perspectives. Partisanship by nature is sticking to a side and defending it to no end. This unambiguous definition derived from wedge issues in the 1960s of civil rights (race), abortion, and gay rights; while trying to also address the rise of the middle class. Through the occurrence of such events, individuals became clearly marked to one side as there was no middle stance on such issues, or to be better put, it simply was not offered. The two sides stated that their side was the moral and good side while that of the opposition was immoral and bad. Compromising was not an option on such issues and as a direct result partisanship arose. Engaged citizens could not abide by such rules as part of the characteristics in being an engaged citizen is attempting to gain an understanding on the opposing perspective. Partisanship with its wedge issues only seeks to demonize the other side, and as such cannot coincide with the Dalton's definition of good citizenship through being an engaged citizen.

The Moral Aspect of Being a Good Citizen

Analyzing the cause in partisanship's rise within both parties is both sides attaching morality to party. It's extremely easy to have a homogenous population share similar sentiments on morality as there is similar interests, experiences, and characteristics for a population to unite around. Throughout most of the history of American politics, the morality of America, or at least the Americans whose sentiments were credited, was that of the Christian, educated, white, landowning, male and all others did not possess a stake in America's political affairs. Arguments can be formed that the rise of partisanship stems back to the issue of slavery, yet the argument for freeing African Americans from slavery was not one fueled by moral apophony, but instead diverging economic interest and involvement in the practice. Some might sustain the idea that African Americans acquiring the right to vote changed the political interests of the American Electorate; however, with policies such as Jim Crow implementing poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy test for the African American community was collectively an act of silencing such interests. Finally, the third argument is that women solidified the change in moral characterization when women's suffrage was achieved through the 19th Amendment, but this still proved insufficient as women were more affiliated for the most part with domesticated duties and issues outside the world of American politics. Nonetheless, Dalton and Abramowitz both give rise of new morality and diversified American interests to the middle of the 20th century. Dalton insists that changes occurred from technological to cultural focuses during the 1950s, and Abramowitz distinctly gives rise to partisanship due to the Civil Rights Movements during the 1960s. This identification of separation in a decade leads to the argument that the rise of partisanship was a reaction to the emergence of a new political ideal of citizenship.

Through morality being the tool of both defining good citizenship and the creation of partisanship, it is entirely plausible that creating partisanship is a reaction and symbolic representation of how American political sentiments are being reevaluated, and for the first time since the birth of the American Republic, individuals are reconciling what it means to be an American citizen and the responsibilities associated with it. Prior to the 1950s, it was the duty citizen that was held responsible to showing up to the polls and voting because at the end of the day elections began and end at the voting booth as supporting an individual, no matter their party identification, was easy seeing as the person who would end up representing the majority of the American population that truly mattered would look the same and share the same interest regardless in how said individual felt about the role of government. The beneficiary from any party no matter their beliefs was set up to be the rich, educated, white man. However, the birth of the engaged citizen in needing to tackle cultural issues challenged this notion of self-assurance in the duty-based individuals, who up to this point were truly only white men. Support for this notion is seen through Dalton directly identifying issues prior to the 1950s as regarding technological innovations, as this is not a topic to truly stir controversy and divide. Rise in the engaged citizen is the figurative representation of the minority population as they have had to advocate for gaining rights that white men have been granted by birth from generation to generation. The diversification of elections and the interest's candidates are presented have inspired the separation of the American citizen. Though duty and engaged citizens are not tied to a singular physical makeup like age, social status, or ethnic background; it cannot be ignored that the justification behind minority representation gave rise to the engaged citizen and its challenge to the notion of duty-based precedent. Both Dalton and Abramowitz make the distinction of such fact whether its through the title of cultural issues or the signaling of wedge issues.

We VS Them

The need to divide into us verses them, duty verses engaged, good verses bad, stems from the notion that there will always be winners and losers alike. Everyone wants to be on the winning side and as such they draw these figurative lines. Dalton does this when defining good citizenship to understand the instinctually of needing to belong with individuals who share similar sentiments. Duty-based citizenship represents a trust in country and of those who represent it, if one has never experienced the need to feel excluded or denied representation then why would one not have trust in such entities. Engaged citizenship signifies the awakening perspective that although society has transformed in ideals and has diversified, there still is a neglect of such within the American political system. Individuals who have not experienced the same events, who have not been privy to exclusion in the past, and whom do not hold a need to share in the same interests, cannot effectively represent a distinct group of individuals, yet that is what has historically occurred. To eradicate the bad citizen, Americans must first be willing to realign their ideals and reach outside their groups. Duty citizens and engaged citizens alike who one unifying characteristic: they aspire to be good citizens.

To achieve such ability as is desired by both perspectives of good citizens, it is critical that each side is truly informed on the issue and can argue for their side using personal justification rather than mere talking points. Americans as they are today must be spoon-fed everything in a way to which they are required to exert as little energy in forming their own rational as possible. Both sides have emitted the perception onto Americans that the other is the cause of the polarization experienced within acting upon issues. Abramowitz places the number of Americans who vote based off candidate and not party at around 20%; whereas, before the 1980s it was common practice to have split ticket voting. Individuals running for office utilize a party's platform as their own because they understand that Americans don't see past the perspective of for or against an issue. The lack in conducting true research on an issue and forming one's own opinion that applies academic justification has led to a clear partisan divide. Voting engagement has increased because of the ability of individual to encyclopedia vote based off the letter affiliated next to a candidate's name. Although the method of voting based off affiliation alone is shown to be just as effective as research voting, one must correlate the direct impact of the fact that candidates do not offer profound ideas anymore on solving issues but rather merely puppet party sentiments. A true change; however, is occurring as leadership with blind loyalty is arising in both parties as there exist individuals who proclaim on both side that they will go "Bernie or Bust" or "Trump all the way." Whether duty-based or engaged a citizen is expected to have an active role in the government, and by not forming their interests in issues and deciding upon their own rational for choosing a side negates the role of either citizen. Thus, partisanship has no place in either category of good citizenship.

The Meaning of "Good" in a Good Citizen

Good as any adjective is subjective to one's own perception when defining such words. The ideals and characteristics associated by one with the term good could vary vastly in accordance to the association held by another. Thus, one must acknowledge the varying degrees of the term and realign their goal of becoming a better citizen. This is a prevalent theme of Dalton's acknowledgment when dealing with terms as no one can honestly say they are a true engaged citizen or duty-based citizen. Every American has broken a law no matter how minor and every American has supported a product that does not meet all their moral ideals. Moreover, no American can say that they are truly a good citizen. This principle further extends to the need of destroying partisanship as no individual can be clear cut for and against all issues. Partisanship does not allow for subjective perception as it is only offered in terms of black and white, yes or no. Having no middle ground means no one can be truly supportive of the government, or state that they thoroughly understand the perspective of others. Being a better citizen in terms of both types of citizenship begins with bringing an end to partisanship.

American citizens cannot be divided as doing so renders the government and its ability to perform ineffective. The past and the future must come together to form the present, and as those who once consolidated power cling to the duty of the power to vote and those of the future persist in engagement by activism, the present remains stuck with zero mobility to progress further. Americans must cut ties to the approach of black and white stances and walk together, hand-in-hand, to the grey zone in order to begin to find the identity of good citizenship.


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