Independent Voters: Unicorns or Liars?

The rhetoric and hatefulness between Americans is frightening.

I blamed the media when I wrote about it day before yesterday. But I happened to see a post I wrote years ago raging at the political establishment (I spend a LOT of my time raging) and I was reminded that back then, I blamed us for the way we treat each other.

It’s a chicken or egg thing, isn’t it. Is the media a consequence of our bad behavior toward one another? Or is our hatefulness initiated and perpetuated by a media desperate to fill the eternal news cycle?

 

Originally posted as Package Deal Groupthink

Independents are the political equivalent of the easter bunny. People talk about our voting bloc as crucial, but they struggle to believe we really exist. A person who strongly identifies with the Republicans or Democrats can’t afford to go against their party on anything, or else they risk splitting the vote and allowing them to win. Therefore, it is impossible to be pro-gun control and anti-amnesty. So accustomed are they to refusing to consider an unendorsed view that they often don’t believe anyone else would, either.

This wholesale groupthink is very helpful to the political party operatives. Why does that work for them?

If you want legislation on an unpopular topic, get it in your party’s platform. As long as you can equate not supporting that topic with the horrible Other, people will fight viciously to attain or defend something they don’t even want. “Wait a minute! You don’t think we need to declare English as the national language? Why don’t you go over there with all the other America-hating elitists?”

It works in reverse, too. If you are in a minority that is against something, you can associate it with a prototype of the other party. “Really, you don’t think EPA regulations should be tightened. Because all that matters to you is profit. You don’t care if you create a food crisis with global warming.”

If this, then that.

The most obvious example of the parties telling the people what is permissible to think is abortion and capital punishment. Consider pro-life Republicans are adamantly pro-death penalty. Pro-choice Democrats are emphatically anti-death penalty. There is a lot of sanctimoniousness on both sides:

  • “I believe all life is sacred… unless it’s a horrible criminal who deserves death a thousand times over.”
  • “I believe all life is sacred… unless it’s still in its mother’s womb, because that is a fetus, not a person.”

Neither point of view offends me. But either life is sacred or it isn’t. If the parties had not ingrained this paradox in our minds, more pro-choice people would be pro-death penalty, and pro-life people would be more anti-death penalty. But when an Independent voices an opinion like that, partisans tend to say (and often really believe) that the Independents are dishonest and/or ashamed of their real beliefs. 

Those who don’t align with every facet of the Republican or Democratic agenda are guaranteed to face harsh judgment and criticism from both sides. Demonizing anyone who doesn’t share all of a group’s beliefs isn’t just for weird religious cults anymore.

A person who offers a difference of opinion online will almost certainly be attacked personally. I’m not talking about trolls. A simply stated difference is sure to generate abuse, threats, and often censorship. Both parties vilify dissenters as unAmerican and mentally unsound.

Protest for Ground Zero Mosque

One thing most of us agree on is the country is hurtling towards civil strife. And what will happen to those of us who don’t jump on an establishment bandwagon?

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