The sweet spot and polarisation

The sweet spot and polarisation

January 4, 2021

What I’d love to talk about (the sweet spot)

I’d love to share stories about the flourishing of earth and humanity. Stories of how humans look after earth and each other.

What I am going to talk about (polarisation)

Instead, my attention is drawn to polarisation and division.

In the face of the significant challenges that the earth’s systems (and because of that, humanity’s survival) faces, humanity seems like little children quarreling about who said what and who is right.

The US election

One current example of polarisation that concerns me is the US election, and the continuing efforts by the incumbent president to change the results.

Election fraud …

The claims made by the incumbent president and his campaign are made on Twitter and in the media. They are also laid out in the various cases brought before the court. For example, this article in The Conservative Tree House includes a copy of the Trump Campaign’s petition to the court [However, I could not yet see it on the blog of the Supreme Court.]

… or not

This lengthy facebook post by Senator Ben Sasse lays out the concerns with the latest effort to change the election result, the attempt to dismiss Electoral College votes.
He references Andrew C. McCarthy’s work on the National Review. Andrew provides commentary on the Trump Election-Fraud lawsuits. He concludes a very clear, thoughtful analysis of the Wisconsin case presided over by Judge Ludwig with:
It has become an article of faith among ardent Trump followers that the election was stolen. The president continues to insist that this is the case, and these flames were further fanned by 19 Republican-controlled state governments, along with 126 Republican members of Congress, who joined the meritless Texas lawsuit, tossed out by the Supreme Court on Friday. The rationalization behind that stunt was that the president has been denied his day in court. But every time a court offers him an opportunity to establish by proof what he is promoting by Twitter, Team Trump folds. Why is that?”

Why does it matter?

Why does this ongoing polarisation concern me?

I recently overheard a TV report where Trump supporters talked of the need to “stand with Trump” because they were fighting for America, for decency, for right. And their view that that those who did not believe in election fraud had “closed minds” and “were not interested in finding the truth”.

Also recently, I read about Solomon Asch’ s “social conformity experiments”: Given the option of providing a true answer or an answer that the subject knew was patently false, but socially acceptable, nearly 75% of subjects chose the group answer even though it was obviously incorrect. [p.119 – 120, James Clear – Atomic Habits]

My concern is the momentum the Trump campaign is building in the lead-up to the Certification of the Electoral College votes on 6 January:

  • Members of Congress and the Senate stating they will support a challenge of Electoral College results
  • the Vice President welcoming the bid by 12 Republican Senators “to block certifying Biden’s win” and who ‘”hares concerns with millions about voter fraud”
  • Statements that can be interpreted as calls for violence from elected officials
  • A “March for Trump“/ “March to Save America Rally” in Washington D.C. on January 6th, on the day when certification of Electoral College Votes is due to start at 1:00 pm.
    The message is that “Democrats are scheming to disenfranchise and nullify Republican votes. It’s up to the American people to stop it. Along with President Trump, we will do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation.” (quote from the “March for Trump” website).
  • The Proud Boys “have vowed to attend the rally incognito, disguised as their left-wing enemies Antifa, in a bid to sow chaos among the opposing ranks”.

Whilst the chance of actually changing the election result may be very low, the hardening of positions and lack of openness to different viewpoints will (further?) damage the social fabric in the United States … and, through the narratives that emerge, in the wider English-speaking world.

This will make finding “common ground” for dealing with the real threats to humanity’s survival much, much harder, if not impossible.

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