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Commentary On The Good Citizen: How A Younger Generation Is Reshaping American Politics By Russell J. Dalton

1155 words - 5 pages

Many political analysts argue that engagement is an important characteristic of democracy, yet the younger generation is indifferent towards politics. They’re more interested in the latest iPhone technology than in campaigning or voting. In The Good Citizen: How a Younger Generation Is Reshaping American Politics, author Russell J. Dalton counters this with the idea that Gen X’ers are still engaged, just in a different way.
The book is divided into three sections. Chapters one through three deftly connects theory and survey data to characterize citizen norms in modern America. Chapters four through seven addresses the ramifications of those changing norms. Chapters eight and nine are a ...view middle of the document...

Duty-based norms increase election turnouts and bring a sense of allegiance to the elected government, while engaged citizens focus on such things as demonstrations or protests. The Republican Party takes a duty-based citizenship stance, whereas the Democrats places more emphasis on engagement. Both types of citizenships have advantages and constraints. Dalton asserts that the deterioration of duty-based citizenship is offset by the increase of engaged citizenship.
The world is continually changing. As it does, our attitudes change with it. Dalton explores the way people perceive the best way to influence government. Do we have more impact when we vote, or when we protest? He explains the transition of engaged citizens to social modernization and changes in generation, asserting that “better education, upper status occupations, and higher income provide the resources of time and money that facilitate political action” (Dalton 2008, 67). He indicates that broadening political skills and resources allows people to understand the limited effects of voting, making them more likely to use other direct and policy focused methods. Dalton indicates voter turnout isn’t a good indicator of political involvement. Indeed, people who are uneducated about the issues at hand and the politicians’ involvement in these issues often vote because they feel it’s their civic duty. Most Americans feel that voting is important, even if they don’t vote themselves. The right to vote itself seems more significant than taking the time and effort to actually vote.
Why is the younger generation leaning more towards citizen engagement? Dalton lists a number of factors for this. One of these is modernization, which has revolutionized our norms of citizenship by affecting our political values and actions. Another is generation changes. Older generations were raised in a different era with different expectations than our current generations. We’re more educated than ever before. One needs to be informed in order to make legitimate political decisions. Better-educated citizens are more engaged citizens. Technology has had a huge impact. The internet can provide a wealth of information on every subject imaginable that was previously unavailable or as easily accessible. Most television stations are on 24/7 these days; many channels are dedicated solely to nationwide news. Gender and racial changes have had a huge impact. Women and African Americans were not allowed to vote in the past, yet both are more engaged simply because they can now.
Citizenship type has an impact on policy preferences. For example, duty citizens feel it’s more important to put money...

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