An Appeal for Moderation

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?  Statistics would suggest not well.  One of the main reasons these resolutions fail is because we make grand and vague resolutions, rather than small, realistic, incremental improvements that are more likely to succeed. 

So, if it is almost impossible for us as INDIVIDUALS to improve OURSELVES with drastic and radical change, why do so many people think that we would be able to successfully improve a country of 300 million different individuals with drastic and radical change?

As Super Tuesday is days away and the Illinois primary a couple weeks later, I’ve been drafting some different political posts.  I may post some of them later… we’ll see.  But I figure this would be a good one to start, as I don’t think it’s overly controversial; and I believe it’s also somewhat timely with the upcoming primaries.

A while back, during one of the many examples of hyper-partisanship, I asked that during the next primary season, people please vote for the candidates that seek consensus and unity, rather than those that demonize the other side and bring a war-like approach to politics.  Well, that time is now, and unfortunately, it seems that both sides, in primaries up and down the ticket, are competing to see who hates the other side more.

As I mentioned in one of those posts, about 30% of the country is Republican, about 30% are Democrats, and about 40% are Independents; which means that whatever your beliefs, THE MAJORITY OF THE COUNTRY DOES NOT AGREE WITH YOU.  Unfortunately, instead of accepting this reality and seeking to build consensus and compromise as the Founding Fathers intended, we have allowed the extremes of political parties to try and instill a tyranny of the minority upon the remainder of the country.

One can be principled and be respectful to opposing viewpoints at the same time.  It really isn’t that difficult. All it takes is acting in good faith and being willing to listen.   For example, I am a life-long Republican with conservative principles, but I don’t think Democrats are Un-American.  Meanwhile, I am also a “Never-Trump” Republican, but I don’t think his supporters are racists bigots.  In both cases, I understand that those with opposite viewpoints than mine are generally and fundamentally good people whose life experiences have simply led them to different conclusions than me.

We need to reject those voices that appeal to emotions such as anger and fear to drive division.  It is an unfortunate but fundamental part of our wiring that we allow emotions to overrun our decisions.  In fact, a study was done which found that people with brain damage to the areas that control emotions find it almost impossible to make decisions.  As much as we like to think of ourselves as logical, we mostly just use our logic to justify our emotional decisions.  Those that manipulate such emotions in their followers are well aware that doing so leads to power for themselves.

The ones that say “I alone can fix things” or “We need a revolution” are following the same dangerous paths of countless demagogues and dictators throughout history.  At best, they lead to failed promises and cynicism.  At worst, they lead to dystopian nightmares.

Yes, sometimes drastic measures are needed.  Just like a sudden healthier lifestyle might come about from a heart attack rather than a New Year’s Resolution, sometimes a country does need to make revolutionary changes after a war or a Great Depression or the like.  But even then, when those dire situations present themselves, it is incredibly rare, if not impossible, for one leader or group to force that change upon the country in a positive manner.  To be truly successful, those big changes still need to be done with the support of an entire nation, not just a passionate base.

Improvement is a slow, methodical, and incremental process.  It is true for self-improvement; and it is just as true for national improvement.  So as you prepare to vote in the coming weeks, please reject those that make easy promises to fix everything for you and save you from the evil “others”, appealing to your emotions and telling you what you want to hear; and instead vote for those candidates that realistically offer the hard work of consensus-building and gradual improvement that the Framers originally intended for this great Republic.