A lot of people feel pretty strongly about their political opinions. Often we feel like they are quite set in stone; based on some very deep values that won't change much.
A lot of people also feel like their opinions are based on well-thought-out logic and reasoning, from gathering evidence.
However, there's substantial evidence to suggest that when another tribe's opinions solidify on an issue, our tribe runs away--and we join them. Our opinions on important issues are often fluid and fickle, changing with political wind more than sound thinking.
I got to meet Pat Caddell, who has worked in presidential offices and campaigns since the Carter Administration. He has done a combination of personal interviews, polling, and soul-searching to get a sense of why Trump won the election when, in his words, Trump had no real strategy, few solid positions, and very little in the way of a campaign at all.
The Alt-Right remains probably the least-understood political phenomenon on the United States right now. There is very little consensus about what they stand for, who is in it besides a few celebrities and internet trolls, how many they are, and how powerful they are.
I decided to do some research. I even spent time running around chat boards like Reddit and 4Chan, and reading Breitbart. Fair warning, I have no conclusive answers--but that, in itself, is a finding, suggesting that anyone who is telling you they know that the Alt-Right is such-and-such is probably full of it.
In the Atlantic’s April 2017 issue there is a powerful read called “Making Athens Great Again.” It recounts the faltering of Athens with the execution of Socrates then its renewal with Plato’s creation of the Academy. It discusses why a nation with a sense of exceptionalism must include self-criticism and self-questioning to be worthy of itself. It is an article recounting an ancient history that is still relevant.
In our mission to "rebuild the middle ground" of United States politics, we are obviously fighting a losing battle. If there's any hope to be had from this particular strategy, the middle ground needs to identify who it is, and find each other--and fast.
Structural pressures have driven a lot of people to vote for Trump, a man that many consider extremely dangerous. Life has become harder for them, and they see few leaders willing to do anything about it. They are suffering.When a large group of people suffer — which frequently stems from economic difficulties — their anger and frustration manifests itself as hatred. Why?
Seth Stevenson of Slate wrote an article on Monday called "Don't Blame Voters for the Rise of Trump. Blame the Stupid Way We Vote." Slate isn't known for being particularly easy on the right-wing, so this is one of those "Only Nixon can open China" sorts of deals, and very much worth a read. But the axe I want to grind is that we can't take responsibility away from voters for who they ended up picking.
Just two nights ago--the evening of the 26th--I had the great pleasure of attending a panel with some extraordinary fellow Millennial-types. We were at the New York City Civic Hall, at an event co-sponsored by New America and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. I wanted to share a bit of it with you.
I actually haven't watched the debates. This surprises many of my friends: isn't this politics stuff what I do? Personally, I didn't think I'd learn anything from the debates that would change how I'm voting, and it seems like most other people watching are also unlikely to change how they vote: who they support going in is likely to color who they think won coming out.
One of the things we see frequently with wedge issues is that both sides dig in on something pretty quickly as soon as it turns up. On a national level, 2 years ago, bathrooms were a non-issue. Today, they're divisive. One side wants an immediate and sweeping change to a long status-quo, using law; the other side wants to codify the status quo using law.
Recently, I had a conversation that disturbed me. Perhaps what was most disconcerting was that it was with someone who is extraordinarily intelligent and a successful expert in their field, conservation biology.
I'll admit, I found myself checking the Olympic medal count daily, and felt little stirrings of patriotism as the Americans kicked off the first Gold win in air rifle, and then really started haulin' 'em in during swimming, gymnastics, and track & field. But I had a moment where I asked myself why I cared at all that the United States had the most medaling athletes.
It's been a historically crazy election year, and readers/listeners keep asking me, "what's going to happen this election cycle? What could happen?" So I decided to take a crack. I came up with some crazy scenarios just so we could see how it plays out. It'll be fun.
So I think the common narrative about political bias is this: if your news is biased, they tell a story a certain way, or inject a lot of opinion into something. So you might be thinking of talk radio or podcasts or online articles that are telling you quite obviously, "here's what you should thing! So and so is terrible! Anyone that disagrees with me is an idiot!" That kind of stuff.
But you're probably pretty clever and you probably have some sense of when that's happening, even when it's people that you're prone to agree with. But I think the way that smart people develop political bias is more nuanced.