Is it an accident that states like California and New York are predominantly progressive, and states like Texas and Oklahoma are not?
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Take a look at this electoral map; with four exceptions, all of the states in the contiguous 48 that voted in 2016 for either Clinton or Trump are in connected blocks. Of those four, Colorado and New Mexico share a border, and the other two, Minnesota and Illinois, are very nearly connected. Why?
Question: Did everyone of a like mind move to the same places, or is something else going on?
Answer: Something else. In the absence of differing opinions from a variety of sources, people will rely on the opinions of family and friends, co-workers and their favorite news sources and social media. Outside of family, all the sources will be selected more for comfort and absence of frustration than political reasoning and diversity. Not surprisingly, they will pretty much share the same opinions. Similar opinions from multiple sources that reinforce each other can easily be seen as a valid consensus. And with some notable exceptions (Uncles and Brothers-in Law?), families tend to lean one way or the other on significant issues, adding to the sameness.
Remember the story about the blind men learning about their first elephant by feeling different parts of the animal? The one feeling the trunk thought it was a snake. Another feeling a leg thought it was a tree. The one who had an ear was believed it was a fan. “I feel a wall” said the man with his hands on the elephant’s side. The man with the tail in his hands was convinced that it was a rope, and the last one who had the tusk, was sure that he had found a spear. Each man based his opinions on a partial experience, and each one of them got it wrong. The same thing is happening when we rely on people and sources who are focused on the same parts of our political, social and economic “elephant” to the exclusion of the other parts. Like the blind men analysing the elephant, they do not give any credence to the other parts. The difference is that the blind men were completely satisfied that the part they had represented the whole, while the vast majority of political, financial and social commentators are aware of the other parts, the other positions and arguments–they simply dismiss them as inferior or even hateful. In other words, the blind men were not curious enough to feel for other parts to determine if another view of what they were feeling might be valid. People with political convictions are aware of other views, they simply dismiss them, often with nothing more than an insult, as wrong or hateful.
And this will snowball. Espousing a certain set of opinions will attract others with the same views, and, over time, discourage those with other thoughts from speaking up. Like the snowball which when rolled attracts more of the same (snow), opinions on a roll attract more people with the same opinions. Pretty soon it will appear to those in the expanding consensus that the correct opinions and answers–on even the most controversial subjects–abortion, school choice, foreign involvement, healthcare, etc., are completely obvious and should be unanimous. At least among correct-thinking people. Those who disagree just don’t get it.
Pause for a key point here: The people who dismiss another’s opinion without any semblance of a rational discussion, might or might not be hateful in the way they think or act. But they are clearly being arrogant. The irony here–the deep irony–is that they are so unsure of their own facts and reasoning, so fundamentally uncertain of whether or not their beliefs will stand the test of reasonable disagreement, that they dismiss the other arguments, the other positions, as invalid, or even hateful, while tossing out nothing more than a few cliches or insults. So, Will, what’s the irony here? Answer. The irony is that the people with little or desire or ability to gather pertinent facts, and apply logic to defend their position, feel completely superior to those who have both, and want to engage in a rational, productive dialog.
People in other geographies may–and often do–have thoughts and conclusions that are completely different. And those thoughts and conclusions are just as obvious and should be just as unanimous to them. And it is the other folks in the other geographies who just don’t get it.
Now what?The opposite of following the crowd starts with more curiosity (and less laziness) than the blind men, and more integrity than the vast bulk of politicos. Take your curiosity and integrity and apply them to seeking and implementing helpful results, avoiding cliches and label-driven agendas. For example, single payer healthcare is not an end result. It is a tactic. Offering healthcare to anyone who wants it is a strategy. A tactic to achieve this end result could be seen as creating reasonable access–access–to healthcare for everyone who wants it. We would then look for facts (facts–not opinions) that pertain to this subject, and apply non-agenda based logic to those facts to come up with the best way to achieve the desired overall result. Doesn’t this seem wonderfully clear? But that is not how we do things. Cliches, insults and false accusations rule the day at all levels. “You don’t want single payer? You must hate poor people and want them to die!” “You support single payer? You are a leech who wants to get everything for free!”
Memo to both (all) sides: Stop that! Get over yourselves. Get behind your communities and the country. Think. Define agreed-upon desired overall results–common goals. (They do exist!) Look for pertinent facts. Apply non-agenda based reasoning to achieve the results.
Let’s do better together. Together with Revolution 2.0™.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.