Political Party? I’m the Pooper.
Political parties are the reason that two reasonable, nice, well intentioned individuals can think one another are either idiotic, evil, or both.
Parties encourage groupthink
Groupthink is one of my greatest fears when it comes to politics. In a world that is becoming more and more polarized politically, I would love it if everyone could take a step back and realize that the people we usually agree with, we shouldn’t always agree with.
A great example in recent news has been the Trump tariffs. According to the Google dictionary:
Tariff: A tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports.
As long as I have been alive the left has been in favor of expanding the government’s reach economically and increasing taxes. The right has been in favor of smaller government (economically speaking) and lowering taxes. However, when a political leader steps forward and does something controversial, both sides behave like sheep and respond exactly how they’re supposed to. All of a sudden the right has a justification for throwing down the tax hammer, and the left is certain that these taxes will inhibit a growing economy.
George Washington had the following to say:
[Political Party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country is subjected to the policy and will of another.
If Washington could see the divisiveness of the American people today, I’m sure he wouldn’t be too surprised, but I assume he would be disappointed.
Polarization and groupthink on the rise
A healthy society should find that people tend to have different opinions about different topics. The way a person feels about gay marriage probably should have little to no correlation with how they feel about a new public transit system. Unfortunately this is not the case, and it is becoming less the case.
The image above indicates how over the past two decades, people have generally voted more closely within their own parties and alignments. I don’t know how this can chalk up to anything other than the polarization of ideas, and a general “Us vs Them” mentality.
Why is it getting worse?
There are probably many reason’s, but I’ll just throw out a couple of my theories.
- Social media and targeted advertisements
We all know that when we interact online whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or even just Google searches, data is collected about us and used to enable targeted advertising. While this is a highly effective advertising tool and allows many businesses to get their message out for cheap, it creates an ideological echo chamber.
If I tend to subscribe to liberal media, then I begin to receive suggestions for more liberal channels, pages, and people that I should follow. This means that I’m more likely to follow more liberal media, listen to more leftist arguments, and probably be swayed farther and farther left over time.
2. Controversy Sells
Because of the increasing polarization, if anyone wants to gain a significant following online, they need to follow that trend. Anyone that attempts to side with the enemy will be labeled a “flip-flopper”. It is seen as a sign of weakness to concede a point in a political discussion. Political discussions should not be debate competitions. Conceding a point should be exonerated and respected, not labeled as intellectual failure. I will probably be hated by both sides for this article.
How to do better
I encourage everyone to subscribe and listen to people you disagree with, I can guarantee you will learn more than if you don’t. Also, don’t be an official member of a party. Decide for yourself how you align in each issue.
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