Writing Off The People Who Disagree With You

Nate Silver, arguably the most popular statistician in the country (for whatever that’s worth), has a new article out on his website FiveThirtyEight. The topic? According to recent polling, political maneuvering, and fundraising figures, the GOP is the slight favorite to regain control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections.

Some of the reader comments suggest that, should the Republicans regain control, it will show how stupid/lazy the American people have become. Because, according to thought leaders in Democratic circles, people who vote Republican are either rich or retarded.

It makes sense for the rich to vote Republican because the Republicans support policies that benefit the rich. If you aren’t rich and you vote Republican, you’re some idiotic mouth breather who falls for the race-baiting, religious pandering, and chest thumping game plan that Republicans use to lure white men, the only non-rich people who vote GOP, to the voting booth. But that is an incredibly insulting and oversimplifying explanation for why people vote Republican.

If you look at exit polling in the 2012 Presidential election, it becomes clear that Democrats decisively won every major demographic besides whites. This translates into crowing headlines like “Why Republicans Are the Party of White People”. Inevitably, something gets lost in that headline. Because that kind of narrative deliberately ignores the other votes that propped up the GOP tally.

In 2012, the GOP carried white males 62%-35%. So now the GOP is the party of white males, despite the fact that 1/3 of them voted Democrat. And why isn’t the GOP also the party of white females? Because according to CNN’s exit polling data, they won white women 56% to 42% while the entire female demographic went Democratic in almost the exact opposite way, 55% to 44%. And yet, nobody’s written articles about how the GOP is the party of white women.

Black voters had the widest margin of support for Democrats and went for President Obama 93-6. But as a rule, the 6% who voted for Romney get no coverage in the press. They get to be written off as anomalies, black sellouts or idiots, instead of actual people who had legitimate and well thought out views who ultimately pulled the lever for the Republican candidate.

By no means am I saying that this happens exclusively in Democratic circles. Plenty of Republicans write off “core” Democratic constituencies like blacks and Latinos. Any given GOP spin master would write off blacks with a simple sentence like “our message won’t resonate with black voters because they want handouts and our policies are geared for people who value independence and self-sufficiency.”

And just like that, the black vote gets rendered invisible by both the rank and file and the strategists. Why fight a losing cause? Why not just default to our stereotypical, incredibly simplistic view of people we barely know? The problem with giving up on a group is that you lose a lot of perspective and understanding. Because you might be 1% apart on an issue but think that you’re 99% apart.

When the Republicans and Democrats first clashed over the Federal budget in 2011, they almost shut down the government over an inability to come to an agreement on the budget. Incendiary and divisive rhetoric was employed by both parties. And over what? An average of 90 billion dollars in spending cuts per year.

That might seem like a lot, but it only amounted to 2.4% of the Federal budget last year. 2.4% is why the Democrats and Republicans spent the better part of 3 months shouting past each other and posturing in front of the camera, despite the fact that they both agree on 97.6% of the Federal budget. Both parties were making mountains out of molehills because that’s how politics is done in the United States today. Despite the fact that both parties, in substance, agree on over 95% of the actual issues in the country, it’s that 5% that gets presented as irreconcilable differences between both parties. Between the party of enlightenment (yours) and the party of ignorance (theirs).

The reality is, people are people. We’re not all that different from each other. And we all are guilty of looking past common ground and focusing on minute differences. And we lose something important when we look for contrast rather than trying to build consensus. The next time, before you write off an acquaintance as a Neanderthal because they watch The Real Housewives of Whatever Locale and not the infinitely superior True Detective, consider the fact that you’re both watching TV and that maybe it’s kinda silly trying to judge a person based on what show they’re watching. TC mark

featured image – Flickr / johntrainor

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