I would first like to convince you that you aren’t who you think you are. Whether we like it or not, our views are formed more and more by what we want to believe than what really is. And yet, this diabolical deception is masterminded by no one other than ourselves. That’s right. There’s no conspiracy theory to blame for your delusions. You did it to yourself. The freedoms of choice that you delight in have given you the freedom to be stupendously ignorant of the world around you. How can you expect to make an informed choice at the ballot box if you’re completely unreliable in all your other choices? Blame the filter bubble.
The filter bubble feeds people with information that’s relevant only to them. The only way to avoid this is to allow yourself to consume content from sources that you normally wouldn’t, to tune into channels you normally couldn’t imagine yourself viewing or listening to, or (heaven forbid) to thoughtfully consider the views of people you don’t identify with or who hold opposing beliefs. Only when you deny yourself the delectable sugary coating your unbridled instincts are apt to slather on when interpreting new information (that would otherwise be a hard pill to swallow) can you even begin to consider yourself well-informed or even moderate.
So before you cast your vote, ask yourself: What do I really know about the candidate I’m supporting? Am I voting for him because he’s the best fit for the job, or because I identify with him? …because he’s got the right plan, or because he’s got that ‘presidential look’? Do I want the world to be a better place, or just more like me? How you identify yourself with a potential candidate is the lamest criteria a voter could ever use. To base your choice of candidate solely on your powers of intuition does your country as much good as praying for an economic recovery. Trust your facts more than your conclusions based on them.
While I can’t exactly say who you should vote for, I will say you should keep your mind open. I predict that Obama will most likely win this presidential election, perhaps by another scandalously narrow margin. The polls are wrong. We live in an era of two-term presidents. Voters just aren’t comfortable throwing out a president after 4 years of experience, it seems to me.
Towards a brighter future…
Would the United States of America be better off without straight party voting? I think so. If not, then we should find alternative ways of making information about candidates more easily available to voters. This won’t make the task of voting all that much easier (it should be more difficult, if anything), but should benefit the whole nation by lightening the burden on the voter’s conscience, paving the way for a more cooperative Congress moving ahead.
Where I live everyone seems to avoid openly discussing politics (as with sex or religion). But as I look out into the larger world, I am aware of some exciting political movements, like peer progressivism, introduced to me recently from reading Steven Johnson’s just released Future Perfect, who defines it so succinctly I decided to quote him directly on the subject:
Steven Johnson’s “Future Perfect”
…Peer progressives are wary of excessive top-down government control and bureaucracy; they want more civic participation and accountability in public-sector issues that affect their communities. They want more choice and experimentation in public schools; they think, on the whole, that the teachers’ unions have been a hindrance to educational innovation. They think markets can be a great force for innovation and rising standards of living, but they also think that corporations are far too powerful and top-heavy in their social architecture. They believe the rising wealth and income gaps need to be restored to levels closer to those of the 1950s. They believe that the campaign-finance system is poisoning democracy, but want to retain an individual’s right to support candidates directly. They want lower prices for prescription drugs without threatening the innovation engine of the pharmaceutical industry. They are socially libertarian, and consider diversity to be a key cultural value. They believe the decentralized, peer-to-peer architecture of the Internet has been a force for good, and that governments (or corporations) shouldn’t mess with it.
This might smack of a rebranding of SOPA or the open source movement. While they’re all related, peer progressivism’s roots run deep in American politics. The least I can say, in conclusion, is that our narrow polical views are merely symtomatic of the shortage of innovative solutions to campaigning. We have a long road ahead of us that warrants heaps of optimism for all citizens committed to self-governance and smart enough to escape the filter bubble.