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Old 04-10-2012, 04:31 PM
 
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Generalizing about attitudes toward politics is a slippery topic, but I think (and cannot possible prove) that W. PA. has a more cynical and distrustful attitude to politics than other parts of the U.S., and I think this is explained partly by historical-cultural legacy, partly by the lingering effect of political machinery, and partly by the constitutional structure.

W. PA's ethnic mix, a Ulster Presbyterian "Scotch Irish" foundation overlaid by successive waves of immigration particularly from southern, central and eastern Europe, plays a role. The Ulstermen who largely settled the region in the late 18th c. were famously clannish, insular despite their wide-ranging diaspora, and distrustful of external authority everywhere they settled. The 19th c. European arrivals were almost entirely people for whom politics was something done to them by someone else, usually with very unpleasant results. The same could be said for the people who came here as part of the Great Northern Migration from southern states in the early 20th c. The result in this region is, I think, a greater tendency to view politics with more hostility than other regions of the U.S., and if viewed positively at all, essentially as a means to extract goods for your tribe, whatever that may mean now. I think it might be possible to find evidence of greater suspicion of the role of government here than for instance in places like Minnesota or the Pacific Northwest, where a different ethnic mix with larger portions of British, Protestant northern German, and Scandinavian immigrants has resulted in different cultural attitudes about what government can/should do.

The machine politics of the late-19th and 20th centuries likewise shaped W. PA's attitudes in the direction of seeing politics largely as a matter of extracting patronage, "jobs for the boys", and other benefits for "our side", rather than as the chief instrument for promoting the public good. The seemingly-endless stream of investigations and convictions of judges and legislators in PA, usually for despoiling the public purse, only helps to convince ordinary citizens that, on the one hand, plunder is what politics is for, and on the other, that every official is at it and only the arrogant or stupid get caught.

On the other hand, something which all parts of the U.S. have in common is a degree of cynicism born out of the frustrations inherent in our vaunted "separation of powers". Checks and balances may be a good way of frustrating would-be tyrants, but they also ensure a frustrated electorate, which eventually turns to cynicism about the process and the participants themselves. Opinion polls of European and Asian parliamentary democracies, where the will of the people is more likely to be translated through parliamentary majorities into visible and more or less immediate action, generally show small but significant differences with Americans on issues of trust or faith in politicians and their political system. Where American states depart from the standard checks-and-balances Federal model (usually through direct democracy provisions like initiative and recall) there also tends to be a slight but distinct difference in these attitudes. In Pennsylvania, with a standard separation of powers constitution and no direct-democracy provisions, these constitutional limits on visibly effective government probably contributes to a sense that politicians are at best self-interested, and at worst criminals who haven't been caught yet.
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Old 04-10-2012, 04:36 PM
 
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Hmm. Having also spent time in Chicago and DC in recent years, I'd say no, not particularly. I do think machine towns breed a certain cynicism, but there are a lot of them in the United States so Pittsburgh doesn't really stand out.
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Old 04-10-2012, 04:37 PM
 
Location: Athens, GA (via Pittsburgh, PA)
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Rush Limbaugh once said, "Pittsburgh is a peculiar city, politically. It's full of Democrats who hate the government."
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Old 04-10-2012, 04:39 PM
 
Location: Yeah
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I think cynisism about life in general is rampant is Western Pennsylvania. Particularly, SW PA
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Old 04-10-2012, 05:05 PM
 
Location: Great White North Hills
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I'll admit, I hate all politicians. They just want to feather their nest period
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Old 04-10-2012, 06:19 PM
gg
 
Location: Pittsburgh
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No faith at all in the double tongues. I can't think of a politician I feel is trustworthy. I think it has more to do with education than location. I mean, who can really fall for all the crap in politics? Being that Pittsburgh is becoming more educated and to be honest, even the Yinzer crowd is skeptical, so yes Pittsburgh would be full of skeptics. Rightfully so.

1. I though PA was going to get rid of state run liquor?
2. Balanced budget? Where? Germany?
3. Promises? Promise and it never gets done!

All bs. I always vote for the lessor of two evils when I vote. I fell for Obama's bs. What was I thinking? Of course it was a better vote that who he was running against.

Ah well whatever. It is all about money and power. That is who we vote for. Look at the money Ronmey has. Oh my. I am sure he knows what it is like to be one of the "little people".
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Old 04-10-2012, 08:07 PM
Status: "Esq. x2!" (set 22 days ago)
 
Location: M.D. Pa.
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I think the cynicism you point out is endemic to the state as a whole, and to varying extents, much of the Northeast as a region. SW PAers may have specific micro reasons for being distrustful of government (some well-founded, others hogwash) but the overarching attitude is indicative of most older states with "machinist" political foundations.
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:06 PM
 
Location: In a valley in the South Hills
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I don't think WPa has a monopoly on political cynicism. If anything, the state has too many straight-ballot voters, which to me implies mindless apathy, not cynicism.
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:29 PM
Status: "Esq. x2!" (set 22 days ago)
 
Location: M.D. Pa.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sskink View Post
I don't think WPa has a monopoly on political cynicism. If anything, the state has too many straight-ballot voters, which to me implies mindless apathy, not cynicism.
The two aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, I would venture to say that apathy--especially political apathy--often stems directly from cynicism.
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Old 04-10-2012, 11:37 PM
Status: "Happy Thanksgiving Week!" (set 3 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
69,693 posts, read 59,919,961 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sskink View Post
I don't think WPa has a monopoly on political cynicism. If anything, the state has too many straight-ballot voters, which to me implies mindless apathy, not cynicism.
I think getting rid of straight ticket voting and partisan municipal elections would help lower the cynicism level.
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