Mann Tackles Partisan Stereotypes


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I found Mann’s lecture on political parties and US foreign policy surprisingly interesting. His lecture focused on the stereotypes of our two major parties and how these stereoptypes had changed throughout the history of the Democrats and the Republicans. Mann’s lecture seemed to be focused on more domestic affairs, rather than on foreign policy as the title of the lecture had suggested. Despite this, I found his recounting of the recent history of our constantly battling parties to be quite interesting. Throughout his lecture, Mann reminded the audience of many episodes which may have slipped their minds during more recent years.

Mann outlined three areas in which Democrats and Republicans have differed in opinion since the late nineteenth centry. The first area Mann highlighted was the role of the US military, including the use of military force.He started with the stereotype that peace movements are typically identified withDemocractic Party, while the Republicans are usually connected with grassroots movements. He traced the peace movements within the Democratic Party back to the 1970’s, when much of the Democratic base grew out of the anti-Vietnam movement. Mann then argued, that the Obama administration was more similar to George W. Bush’s administration in regards to the military. “There are more continuations” than differences, he stated.

The second stereotype Mann tackled, was the evaluation of America’s role in the world. He asked the question, “is the US uniquely right?” Mann pointed out that typically the Democrats are more worried about doing harm overseas than the Republicans. In stark contrast to this idea, Mann then reminded the audience that it was John F. Kennedy who introduced John Winthrop’s quote, “the city on the hill” to modern American exceptionalism. It wasn’t until Ronald Regan’s presidency that this quote became an Republican slogan.

The last stereotype Mann cited was the idea of American decline. This idea did not start with the Democrats and is not exactly a modern concept. Republicans in the late 1940’s worried about American decline with the rising threat of communism in Russia and the Chinese Revolution. The idea really took hold during the Nixon administration, which Mann argued was the main reason why he opened up with China.

Mann then identified a few areas where the parties sway back and forth on issues, such as promoting democracy worldwide and the maintainance of alliances. He ended his lecture with a casual warning, saying that no matter which party you’re talking about, “you can’t follow stereotypes.”

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