Is it an accident that states like California and New York are predominantly progressive, and states like Texas and Oklahoma are not? Take a look at this electoral map; with four exceptions, all of the states in the contiguous 48 that voted one way or the other are in connected blocks. Of those four, Colorado and New Mexicoshare a border, and the other two, Minnesota and Illinois, 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 apparently different sources reinforce each other and 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? Those feeling the trunk thought it was a snake. Others feeling a leg thought it was a tree. Each group based their 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 hateful. In other words, the blind men were not curious enough to feel for other parts to determine if another view of that they were feeling might be valid. People with political views are aware of other views, they simply dismiss them, often with nothing more than an insult, as wrong or hateful.
And this will snowball. The nucleus of same 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 begin appear to those in the expanding nucleus that the correct opinions and answers–on even the most controversial subjects–abortion, school choice, foreign involvement, healthcare, etc., are obvious and unanimous. At least among correct-thinking people. Those who disagree just don’t get it.
Pause for BUT: But so-called right-thinking 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 unanimous to them. And it is the other folks 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. An end result in this area could be described as allowing 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 painfully 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 hate poor people and want them to die!” “You support single payer? You are a leech who wants everything 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. (They do exist!) Look for pertinent facts. Apply non-agenda based reasoning to achieve the results. Results. With. Reason. NOT Agendas. With. Insults.
Let’s do better together. Where will you start?
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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