Wednesday, October 1

Deeply and closely divided

Jonathan Vaught wisely writes in his Facebook status:
If Twitter is any indication [and I would add, Facebook], on November 5 one half of the country is going to bitterly, violently hate the other half, no matter who wins.
We're deeply divided politically right now. But guess what? The candidates aren't that different. There are things I agree with on both sides. Many others do, too. It's not like we're talking Communists and Fascists here. We're talking degrees of people who believe in free market capitalism and democracy/republic-anism.

Why do we feel the need to draw dividing lines and make them into huge chasms? We take positions, make them out to be more extreme than they really are, villify the opposite positions, and then project everything onto the candidates. It's a no-win system that produces the kind of political shenanigans we get treated to all the time. It's crazy.

Is there any way to fix this thing (not this particular election, which is probably already a loss in this regard)? To make it better?


SteveB said...

Yeah, it's saddening, isn't it? Especially since, as you point out, the candidates both have a number of policies in common that differ only in degree. Sadly it seems like they also both vp candidates no one really wants to see become President. We'll find out more on that tomorrow, I'd guess.

For me a large part of the blame is on mass media, which sells headlines and air time from creating animosity. The political parties themselves also, the DNC and RNC, share in the blame for using such inflammatory partisan rhetoric. The leaders in Congress also carry on the tradition of pressuring their members to vote along "party lines". Certainly some party ideologies trend differently (e.g. federal rights vs. states rights) but sometimes it's hard to see how individual bills and votes really line up along those trends.

I don't know how we fix this, except by educating people in the political process and in civics, broadly defined. This doesn't seem to be a priority, however, for those in politics or the media, or teachers in high schools and colleges generally. I feel like civics, whatever one's thoughts are about homeschooling, is something best taught and learned in the home.

Sean said...

let me try this on you, Steve. in the end, we can't blame the mass media or the politicians because they are our choice. they are what the market will bear. we get the politicians we want/deserve and the products and services we want/deserve (in this case, media).

so, the blame has to be laid, mostly, on the market/electorate.

sure, we can blame the media and politicians some, but it's a small, almost symptomatic problem.

one reason to be cautious about pure democracy and more supportive about representation (though i think this gap has narrowed as voters influence their reps more and more and reps pander more and more.

what do you think?

Dan tdaxp said...

I would identify winner-take-all elections as the culprit, as it forces an "anyone but the worst guy who might actually win" thinking.

Not that winner-take-all is overall bad, but it has this bad impact.

JV said...

Thanks for the shout, Sean!

I'm going to guess that you already read this, but just in case you didn't, here's a blog post I did on the same subject as the Twitter post, just a little more rant-worthy.

FWIW, I think we've bought into the soundbites that the spinmeisters get paid to disseminate. Instead of critical thought, we pick a team to root for, and hate on the other team "because they ain't our kinda folks".

Watch for five minutes (if you can stand it). Worse than the mudslinging is the increasing frequency of "I don't know *anyone* who likes [THE OTHER GUY]" posts. We're all just preaching to our own choir.

Sean said...

Dan: good point

JV: we agree, so we must be right ;-)