Jul 26, 2016

Feelings Matter but Facts are Relevatnt Too. Which Side Will Prevail this Election Year?

So, yeah, feelings are very important and they trump reality. We have to acknowledge this. Most people are intuitive, emotional, and they pick a team or are brought up in a tribe that has their allegiance. Facts often don't change people's minds, especially during a heated argument or an strident political campaign.

(Link to video from the 2' mark)

That's why conservatives--who supposedly are big on "law and order"--keept pushing this narrative at their convention that we're about to die! Never mind that crime rates have gone down. Newt Gingrich when confronted with the facts he kept saying he was right because that's how he (and a lot others) feel. He may have found out that the crime rate on my block went up 100% last year, because someone stole a lawn mower!  You know what they say, a petty theft leads to the apocalypse. So, yeah, let us arm ourselves to the teeth to prepare for the inevitable. Whatever.

The point is that our democracy relies on the judgment of people, many of whom are very misinformed in a wilful ignorance way. I have friends and family who are all over the political spectrum. They rarely are interested in having a rational discussion about facts. I am not saying they have to agree with me--after all, values and priorities are individually based.

I teach political science and thinking about politics is a daily occupation for me. It's so rare, outside academia, to be asked, what do you think about this and how did you arrive at your conclusion.  If they're not sure where I stand on an issue, I may get the question, what do you think about it, though most often the reasoning, the path to the conclusion isn't needed. Why? Because it's confirmation bias at play.  They also hope for an answer that confirms their preconceived notion, otherwise the conversation on that topic ends there.

Republicans are better at pushing the emotional buttons. Simplistic but emotionally-laden remedies to complicated issues are preferred to details. Dems do that too, but they also tend to over-explain, and give complicated answers to hot issues. Trump does not deal in detail policies but in snake oil remedies that will fix things overnight, or at least the first thing in the morning of January 21st, 2017.

The bottom line is that if we had disagreements and true discussion based on reason and facts, there would be more common ground. But, people argue on emotions, and when perceptions of reality (who did what, when, and how) vary wildly and they are not interested in checking the facts. It's astounding to me that in the 21st century America (US) we are debating reality--debating not with facts but with feelings, like Trump, Gringrich and other cons bring to the table. Is the earth billions of a few thousand years old? Is science a guide to climate change? Vaccines? etc.

I can understand (not like it) if someone said he/she hates Mexicans, non-Xtians, whatever. But, the facts show these groups are not more violent or deal in drugs. Someone can say that homosexuality disgusts them, but they can't say that gay partners and parents are less loving or divorce more, or their children are less adjusted that heterosexuals' offspring.  Same with law and order. The conservatives should admit they want an authoritarian leader to keep them safe from imaginary crimes and real diverse society, but they can't argue that tougher punishment and incarceration reduces crime. Social programs, the safety net, and the well-being of the people makes a happier, less violent society!

More on the Dem convention in the next post..... I've watched the first night (Monday) of the convention and I was impressed by Michelle Obama, Bernie,  Warren, and Al Franken.