2015 was a great year for confirmation bias. As a society we’ve gotten much better at limiting our exposure to dissenting views. We belong to Facebook groups with other like-minded people. Media outlets on both the left and right have gotten better at showcasing the viewpoints that their audience wants to hear. This has had a negative impact on political discourse by increasing party loyalty and further divorcing politics from policy.
We view those with whom we disagree with increasing otherness. Democrats see and alien race in Republicans. Right wingers are monsters who want to take rights away from anyone who isn’t a white man. Republicans see Democrats as dangerously naive socialists, weak on foreign policy and hell-bent on taking more and more from honest, hardworking Americans.
Because we cherry-pick our sources, we almost never hear about the dissenting party in a positive light. This has created a terrible rift between politics and policy that’s dangerous to discourse. Our opponents have such little charity for our party’s people and ideas that we feel compelled to stick up for politicians in our party, even when we disagree. Democrats who were once deficit hawks railing against George W. Bush’s executive overreach (remember that?) now applaud the exact same actions from Obama.
Similarly, we feel compelled to attack the other party’s politicians rather than their ideas. When a Republican is backed into a corner in a policy debate, the response is never, “Maybe I should change my view,” it’s, “It’s not like Clinton would do any better.”
I believe that neither party’s politicians are worth defending. I believe that their ideas are only slightly better than their politicians. I believe that there are out of the box solutions to the problems that our country faces and neither party is talking about them. Our penchant for party loyalty and confirmation bias is making civil discourse impossible and compromise miraculous.
As 2016 goes on, I’m going to be publishing a series of essays critiquing current events and presenting alternatives that aren’t being talked about. In the coming days, I’ll be posting about how big business and big government are two sides of the same coin, protecting and consolidating their power.
I will remember 2015 as the year we dug the trenches. We no longer view dissenters with respect and we defend politicians rather than debate policy. I hope I can do my part to help a better nation emerge from the fight.