Political culture is the feelings and beliefs of the people about the government and their thoughts on how people should act towards it. Given this, the federal system of America allows both the state and local governments to try different types of public policies, electoral mechanisms and political institutions (Elazar, 1997). It enables the government to identify the best mechanism for a particular people and is the reason why we have different health systems and health policies in various states (Morone & Ehlke, 2014, p. 192). For instance, use of reversible contraceptives in Colorado and legalization of Marijuana in Washington. Daniel Elazar, a political scientist, singles out three political subcultures that form the political culture of America.
The individualistic political subculture views politics as a forum for individual interests competition and self-gain. It originated from the Middle Atlantic states to the Western States, Missouri, and Lower Midwest. The primary focus of the politicians and the citizens are personal concerns and not a common good for the people. According to Elazar & Mollov (2000), If a public demand for services arises, political innovation leads to new policies with the aim of luring the electorate for an elective office. In this case, the role of the government is limited so that the marketplace keeps running. The competition in this kind of politics is based on parties that thrive on patronage and therefore bureaucracy is taken negatively (Elazar, 1994). Ideally, corruption is highly tolerated in this culture because it is not driven by issues and the supporters receive pay-offs frequently. These politics are considered a dirty business only for the professional players and the role of the citizens is only to vote.
The moralistic sub-culture, ideally, is the opposite of individualistic. It came up from the Puritans through the upper Great Lakes and Midwest into the Northwest. Political participation is for the common interest and the community as a whole. Innovative solutions to policy problems are initiated by the leaders even when the elections are not immediate in this moral culture (Elazar & Mollov, 2000). Political competition is based on individuals performance, and party membership is secondary. It does not encourage corruption, and the politics are considered clean. This sub-culture views bureaucracy positively for the achievement of public good and the government impacts positively on the citizens lives. Citizens participation in politics and governance is active and widespread through direct democracy.
Traditionalistic culture, on the other hand, is seen as one that benefits the elites and preserve the status quo. It came from the Southern Colonies to the Southern and Southwestern states. According to Elazar (1994), A small group of wealthy people and business families holds the political power and exerts their leadership in their perception of common good. The ordinary group of citizens is discouraged to take part, and the turn-out of voters, in this case, is low (Elazar & Mollov, 2000). The government plays a huge role in the maintenance of the social and economic hierarchy. There is no party competition, but the most popular party has internal competition for power. It does not, however, dwell on issues because there is no pressure from the electorate as the public policy position is held by the elites.
These theories focus mostly on the religious and ethnic influences and have been widely used but with criticism that other factors have a greater impact and that culture is too broad to define. Different states have thus used various approaches that are appropriate to particular communities in the resolution of health issues.
Elazar, D. (1997). Contrasting Unitary and Federal Systems. International Political Science Review, 18(3), 237-251. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/019251297018003002
Elazar, D. & Mollov, M. (2000). Introduction: Elections 1999 the interplay between character, political culture and centrism. Israel Affairs, 7(2-3), 1-17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13537120108719596
Elazar, D. J. (1994). The American mosaic: The impact of space, time, and culture on American politics. Westview Pr.
Morone, J. A., & Ehlke, D.C. (Editors). (2014). Health Politics and Policy. (5th edition). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, Cengage Learning.
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