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Ruminations on Politics and Division

000ike
Posts: 11,196
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7/21/2016 4:14:18 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
I have set out to understand or at least contemplate why American politics is so divisive right now and what should be done about it. I have concluded that ideology is the main culprit. Ideology is dogma. Dogma is stupid. Ideology is therefore universally and unequivocally (maybe I"m exaggerating a bit) stupid. What follows is a diagnosis and prescription divided between the positive and normative elements of political discussion.

Arriving at an Understanding on Positive Questions

Reality exists independent of your psychology. Your biases and predilections have literally no bearing on what is actually the case. So if you find that you like a majority of your religious and political views " that you prefer them to the available alternatives, then you should be suspicious of them.

Applicable propositions include the following: god exists; global warming is real; Hillary Clinton evaded prosecution by illicit means; stricter gun control reduces crime; Donald Trump distorts the truth less frequently than the average politician. To have a preference regarding the truth of any of these propositions is to inhibit oneself from identifying it accurately " and that"s precisely the effect that ideologies have.
The problem with political ideologies is twofold: Ideologies are usually hereditary, passed down from family and social environment and thus integrated into personal identity (carrying descriptive force comparable to nationality and race). Defending that ideology tacitly becomes a form of self-affirmation, with the imperative of preserving ones world view and way of life. This invariably results in confirmation bias - you augment whatever evidence happens to validate the ideology (and the accompanying world view) " and of course disregard or otherwise discredit evidence that challenges it. Secondly, the ideology is then used as a formula for understanding every new and complicated political issue you"re confronted with, which forces you to align your positions in a manner distinct from what you might have otherwise thought rational and appropriate.

So the solution to political divisions as they concern positive questions is to be objective" obviously. Most people, however, just aren"t privy to the ways in which their thinking is not objective " conscious/subconscious preferences borne of ideology being one.

Arriving at an Understanding on Normative Questions

I should probably preface this section with the notice that the argument assumes moral relativism.

An ideology is a systematic application of subjective, normative values " it should come as no surprise that they are about as arbitrary and inflexible as the moral intuition on which they"re based. This would, ostensibly, imply that no ideology is more right than the others and that there is no objective reality - no fact of the matter - with which to reconcile conflicting beliefs. This would imply, further, that political discourse is a largely futile exercise intended to be cathartic for discussants without arriving at any consensus or approaching any truth (indeed the term doesn"t even really apply here). It implies that in a modern democracy, decisions are only reached when one faction mobilizes enough people possessed of the same moral sympathies, secures an electoral majority and overrides all dissidents " primitive dynamics of strength and power behind a modern fa"ade " hardly the market place of ideas or collective moral and intellectual evolution classical liberals envisioned. Or if the legislative process is sophisticated enough that the minority party cannot be summarily ignored, decisions are brokered (with dispassionate political concessions and exchanges) " still achieving neither ideal, and changing no minds.

These aren"t hopeless circumstances, however, because there are values we all share " democracy, equality under the law, rule of law, fairness and economic prosperity to name a few " they can serve as a metric with which to measure the validity of other normative stances. At that point one can inquire as to whether or not discriminatory hiring practices or discriminatory denials of service are consistent with the principle of equality under the law, for example. Of course this still results in a contentious debate involving differing interpretations of equality, but this at least offers an avenue through which the conflicting views might be reconciled. In such cases, the party that alleges discrimination is usually the party that experiences it and the party that alleges that no such discrimination exists or that such discrimination is consistent with the principle of "equality under the law" is usually the party that does not experience it. The body of experiences from which both parties derive their positions is asymmetrically distributed " the only way for each party involved to be certain that their disagreement arises from an error in the other party"s application of the relevant principle (equality under the law) rather than the informational asymmetry is for the party skeptical of the discrimination allegations to apply their moral imagination (empathetic faculties) in the most good-faithed and charitable manner they can.

Implications

What follows is that Trump Supporters and Hillary Supporters, for example, are neither evil nor stupid, no matter how tempting it may be to conclude one or the other " they"re just biased and emotional (as we all are) and have formulated their positions on the basis of those preferences (many of which were passively inherited). A constructive and meaningful dialogue can be sustained only if we understand those preferences well " learning to suppress them where the question demands a positive answer based on the weight of evidence and dispassionate ratiocination ". And learning to weigh and respect opposing preferences (to actually simulate them and feel them) rather than dismiss them, where the question demands a normative answer.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
EliphasTheInheritor
Posts: 13
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7/21/2016 4:23:12 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
American politics are divisive because people are angry and now they can talk to each other about it.

That's it.

The fury of Khorne rises.
YYW
Posts: 36,382
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7/21/2016 4:35:15 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
omg you still are writing, almost, like me

Nice to see you, Ike. Hope things are going well for you.
Tsar of DDO
Vox_Veritas
Posts: 7,078
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7/21/2016 5:08:09 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
Despite our Founding Fathers' idealistic vision of democracy as the clash of opposing viewpoints in a marketplace of ideas by white-wigged, well-educated men in courtrooms and in articulate newspaper articles written by each new generation's equivalents of "Publius" and "Cato", politics are subject to the same base human instincts as those which drove Tribe A eons ago to conclude that Tribe B must be exterminated.
Call me Vox, the Resident Contrarian of debate.org.

The DDO Blog:
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#drinkthecoffeenotthekoolaid
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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7/21/2016 2:20:54 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 5:08:09 AM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
Despite our Founding Fathers' idealistic vision of democracy as the clash of opposing viewpoints in a marketplace of ideas by white-wigged, well-educated men in courtrooms and in articulate newspaper articles written by each new generation's equivalents of "Publius" and "Cato", politics are subject to the same base human instincts as those which drove Tribe A eons ago to conclude that Tribe B must be exterminated.

plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Emilrose
Posts: 2,479
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7/21/2016 3:08:12 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
Actually, I think ideology is less prominent in western politics than ever; it has invariably no relation to the present situation in the U.S.

However--disillusionment with the political establishment, does. Moreover, a considerable number of people with a poor socio-economic status will always look towards people like Trump; a political candidate that makes a vast number of promises, gives them the prospect of hope and vocalises their desire to change the status-quo, etc.
'Division' is really caused by dissatisfaction and disunity between people...which again, bares very little correlation to ideology to begin with.

In fact, ideology is often what people turn to when there is already pre-existing division, that is left unaddressed.
Commentator on a picture with David Cameron and a Cat: 'Amazing what you can achieve with photoshop these days. I'm sure that used to be a pig.'

Commentator on Hillary Clinton: 'If Clinton is now what passes for progressive, maybe this country deserves Trump.'

Commentator on British parliament: 'All that talent in one place, where is Ebola when you need it?'

John Kerry on words: 'These aren't just words, folks.'
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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7/21/2016 3:36:56 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 3:08:12 PM, Emilrose wrote:
Actually, I think ideology is less prominent in western politics than ever; it has invariably no relation to the present situation in the U.S.

However--disillusionment with the political establishment, does. Moreover, a considerable number of people with a poor socio-economic status will always look towards people like Trump; a political candidate that makes a vast number of promises, gives them the prospect of hope and vocalises their desire to change the status-quo, etc.
'Division' is really caused by dissatisfaction and disunity between people...which again, bares very little correlation to ideology to begin with.

In fact, ideology is often what people turn to when there is already pre-existing division, that is left unaddressed.

Disillusionment with the political establishment is what fostered the rise of Donald Trump, not what fostered the present divisions, which have been displayed in stark relief since January of 2009, and have gotten even deeper this election season (members of the opposing party have called for the imprisonment and in one case, the execution, of their political opponent - Clinton).

Trump supporters are disillusioned with the Republican establishment in the first place because they've failed to deliver on their promises - their compromises with the Democrats and complacency in Washington doesn't match their rhetoric on the campaign trail. GOP politicians have spent years playing dog-whistle politics with their base to churn out support (most notably with regard to building a wall and taking control of illegal immigration).

This is compounded by the fact that wages have stagnated, economic growth has been slow and tepid, and jobs in heavy industry have been supplanted by increased automation and foreign competition, which most of them blame on traditional liberal economics, globalization and Obamacare. Most Trump supporters misidentify the sources of their problems because of their ideology.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Romanii
Posts: 4,862
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7/21/2016 4:20:18 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 4:14:18 AM, 000ike wrote:

This is an excellent post, and it articulates precisely why I have a hard time taking intellectual discourse seriously anymore. Unique experiences breed unique perspectives, biases, and values. We process all new information through the lens of those pre-existing perspectives, which results in a rarely-broken cycle of self-reinforcement in our views. Our minds have evolved to work this way out of necessity -- it helps us cope with and make sense of a reality which is too insanely complicated to process in a purely rational manner. I'd recommend the book "You Are Not So Smart" (by David McRaney) to anybody interested in reading about humanity's intellectual fallibility.

In retrospect, my support for Trump was largely based in confirmation bias. I *wanted* to support Trump, because he's hilarious, and because most of the people I discussed politics with supported him too. After several months of listening to conservative podcasts and surrounding myself with people like Thett3 and Skepsikyma, there was a definitively rightward shift in my own views. Then I started listening to liberal/progressive podcasts and talking to people like FourTrouble and JMK... and surprise surprise, my views shifted left.

Nobody's views are based in objective reasoning. It's all a matter of perspective, and if you try hard enough, you can make yourself sympathize with literally any person's perspective. When it comes to intellectual discourse, the substance of the speaker's argument doesn't matter. What matters is their rhetoric, their presentation, and your personal affinity for them. That's what determines whether or not you will end up sympathizing with their perspective (and agreeing with their opinions, by extension).
Semiya
Posts: 405
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7/21/2016 4:26:55 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 4:20:18 PM, Romanii wrote:
At 7/21/2016 4:14:18 AM, 000ike wrote:

This is an excellent post, and it articulates precisely why I have a hard time taking intellectual discourse seriously anymore. Unique experiences breed unique perspectives, biases, and values. We process all new information through the lens of those pre-existing perspectives, which results in a rarely-broken cycle of self-reinforcement in our views. Our minds have evolved to work this way out of necessity -- it helps us cope with and make sense of a reality which is too insanely complicated to process in a purely rational manner. I'd recommend the book "You Are Not So Smart" (by David McRaney) to anybody interested in reading about humanity's intellectual fallibility.

In retrospect, my support for Trump was largely based in confirmation bias. I *wanted* to support Trump, because he's hilarious, and because most of the people I discussed politics with supported him too. After several months of listening to conservative podcasts and surrounding myself with people like Thett3 and Skepsikyma, there was a definitively rightward shift in my own views. Then I started listening to liberal/progressive podcasts and talking to people like FourTrouble and JMK... and surprise surprise, my views shifted left.

Nobody's views are based in objective reasoning. It's all a matter of perspective, and if you try hard enough, you can make yourself sympathize with literally any person's perspective. When it comes to intellectual discourse, the substance of the speaker's argument doesn't matter. What matters is their rhetoric, their presentation, and your personal affinity for them. That's what determines whether or not you will end up sympathizing with their perspective (and agreeing with their opinions, by extension).

If you'll excuse me saying so, this makes it sound like you don't have strong opinions. I would say people have firm beliefs and morals that cannot be swayed, for better or for worse. I know I have philosophical beliefs and values that I consider to be fundamentally correct and would never change, and so do many other people. People should let themselves be swayed by more objective measures like policy, but alas, they do not.
Romanii
Posts: 4,862
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7/21/2016 4:57:17 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 4:26:55 PM, Semiya wrote:
If you'll excuse me saying so, this makes it sound like you don't have strong opinions. I would say people have firm beliefs and morals that cannot be swayed, for better or for worse. I know I have philosophical beliefs and values that I consider to be fundamentally correct and would never change, and so do many other people.

Good for you. Having a high degree of epistemic confidence in your worldview ensures that you'll experience minimal confusion & indecisiveness going forward. Unfortunately, I cannot bring myself to choose convenience over truth.
Semiya
Posts: 405
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7/21/2016 5:51:07 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 4:57:17 PM, Romanii wrote:
At 7/21/2016 4:26:55 PM, Semiya wrote:
If you'll excuse me saying so, this makes it sound like you don't have strong opinions. I would say people have firm beliefs and morals that cannot be swayed, for better or for worse. I know I have philosophical beliefs and values that I consider to be fundamentally correct and would never change, and so do many other people.

Good for you. Having a high degree of epistemic confidence in your worldview ensures that you'll experience minimal confusion & indecisiveness going forward. Unfortunately, I cannot bring myself to choose convenience over truth.

People hold these views because they consider them to be true. That's all that matters. Constantly changing your opinions will never lead you to truth. That's just weakness of mind.
Romanii
Posts: 4,862
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7/21/2016 6:34:54 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 5:51:07 PM, Semiya wrote:
People hold these views because they consider them to be true. That's all that matters. Constantly changing your opinions will never lead you to truth. That's just weakness of mind.

Epistemic humility is essential to truth-seeking. The correct answer is almost always somewhere in between the two extremes.
Semiya
Posts: 405
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7/21/2016 7:02:25 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 6:34:54 PM, Romanii wrote:
At 7/21/2016 5:51:07 PM, Semiya wrote:
People hold these views because they consider them to be true. That's all that matters. Constantly changing your opinions will never lead you to truth. That's just weakness of mind.

Epistemic humility is essential to truth-seeking. The correct answer is almost always somewhere in between the two extremes.

Most times, perhaps. Epistemic humility is not the same thing as swapping your opinions to match your social group. That's just peer pressure and conformity.
Emilrose
Posts: 2,479
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7/21/2016 7:28:11 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/21/2016 3:36:56 PM, 000ike wrote:
At 7/21/2016 3:08:12 PM, Emilrose wrote:
Actually, I think ideology is less prominent in western politics than ever; it has invariably no relation to the present situation in the U.S.

However--disillusionment with the political establishment, does. Moreover, a considerable number of people with a poor socio-economic status will always look towards people like Trump; a political candidate that makes a vast number of promises, gives them the prospect of hope and vocalises their desire to change the status-quo, etc.
'Division' is really caused by dissatisfaction and disunity between people...which again, bares very little correlation to ideology to begin with.

In fact, ideology is often what people turn to when there is already pre-existing division, that is left unaddressed.

Disillusionment with the political establishment is what fostered the rise of Donald Trump, not what fostered the present divisions, which have been displayed in stark relief since January of 2009, and have gotten even deeper this election season (members of the opposing party have called for the imprisonment and in one case, the execution, of their political opponent - Clinton).

That relates more to anger, than ideology itself.

Trump supporters are disillusioned with the Republican establishment in the first place because they've failed to deliver on their promises - their compromises with the Democrats and complacency in Washington doesn't match their rhetoric on the campaign trail. GOP politicians have spent years playing dog-whistle politics with their base to churn out support (most notably with regard to building a wall and taking control of illegal immigration).

I wouldn't necessarily assume that *all* Trump supporters were/are Republican supporters, and I doubt that failure to deliver on promises is exclusively the catalyst for their support of Trump; though it obviously plays a part, there's also what (Trump supporters) view as the general decline of the U.S--both domestically and at the world stage, etc. Trump's slogan alone taps into that consensus: 'make America great again.' What they view as their America, as far as they're concerned, is gradually being dissipated.

Also...that you acknowledge that the Republican establishment has failed in areas is pretty much accepting that ideology has become increasingly unimportant in politics.

This is compounded by the fact that wages have stagnated, economic growth has been slow and tepid, and jobs in heavy industry have been supplanted by increased automation and foreign competition, which most of them blame on traditional liberal economics, globalization and Obamacare. Most Trump supporters misidentify the sources of their problems because of their ideology.

Hm, again I'd disagree; especially as most people (I.E general citizens) don't necessarily have a defined political ideology. Misidentifying the sources of their problems is rather more explained by what appears to be the most obvious answer to them--take immigrants for example, if there's a high portion in a certain community or neighbourhood, and if there's relatively less prosperity and jobs for non-immigrants in that said community or neighbourhood, then placing blame towards the immigrants wouldn't seem totally extraordinary. It really doesn't take ideology to do that.
Commentator on a picture with David Cameron and a Cat: 'Amazing what you can achieve with photoshop these days. I'm sure that used to be a pig.'

Commentator on Hillary Clinton: 'If Clinton is now what passes for progressive, maybe this country deserves Trump.'

Commentator on British parliament: 'All that talent in one place, where is Ebola when you need it?'

John Kerry on words: 'These aren't just words, folks.'