Package Deal Groupthink

Independent voters are the political equivalent of the easter bunny. People talk about our voting bloc as crucial, but they struggle to believe we could really exist. Nothing has prepared them for a voter looking for a pro-choice, anti-amnesty, anti-interventionism platform.

According to conservatives, anyone who is pro-choice must also be pro-amnesty, pro-gay-marriage, and pro-mosque near Ground Zero. Liberals, on the other hand, will say with a straight face that anyone who is anti-amnesty is also pro-Patriot Act, pro-life, and a Rush Limbaugh groupie. If this, then that.  To both groups, the term Independent seems to signify a person who aligns with one of the parties, but thinks they aren’t aggressive enough with their agenda. In other words, Independent equals SUPER-right-wing or SUPER-left-wing. Just pick any random political position, and you can tell whether the voter belongs on the right or left. Uh, no.

Tea Party protest on the National Mall

This apparent need to classify everyone as either Liberal or Conservative is frustrating. The American media is more polarized than ever before on the issues. Their non-stop chatter is directed toward an audience that is either extremely liberal or extremely conservative.

For those of us who can’t bring ourselves to align with every facet of the Republican or Democratic agenda (the “package deal”), we’re guaranteed to face harsh judgment and criticism from both sides of the aisle. This tendency to demonize anyone who doesn’t share a group’s prevalent beliefs has leaked over into the world of ordinary citizens.

Try leaving a comment on a left-leaning blog (e.g., Huffington Post) and a right-leaning blog (e.g., Heritage) that differs from the general sentiment. Keep it simple, and avoid being rude or insulting. You are all but guaranteed to be the victim of a personal attack.

Case in point: a recent poster to the Huffington Post said he/she disagreed with the Tea Party, but was glad to see new ideas being circulated. Within minutes, the poster was subjected to name-calling (“stupid”, “ignorant”, “tea bagger”); personal abuse (“why don’t you shut the **** up, Rethug?”; and ultimately, censorship (the post was removed by a moderator as inflammatory). Really? Inflammatory?

A look at a conservative website shows this rancor is by no means limited to liberals. One poster sparked an avalanche of rude comments by saying he/she didn’t care if Obama was a Muslim, provided he was a fair and thoughtful leader. This poster was treated to names such as “idiot” and “Obamanazi”.

In both cases, the posters were vilified as anti-American, mentally-unsound embarrassments to the country.

Protest for Ground Zero Mosque

One thing the extreme right and extreme left agree on is that the country is hurtling towards civil strife. Despite promises from the federal government to unite us, Americans are more polarized about politics than ever. Of course, neither group feels that they’ve at all contributed to this general mindset.

In a way it is good: people are passionate and more involved with the process.  Passion and interest are wonderful – but where does that leave those of us who can’t jump on one of the two established bandwagons?

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