Ideological lenses obscure rationality | Rich Elfers’ Politics in Focus

Today the nation is divided politically into major camps based upon classes: Republicans and Democrats. The field of battle is the November presidential election. Each side frames its perceptions to convince voters their viewpoint is correct and the other is wrong.

“In politics, perceptions are crucial. Devoted ideologues on each side will cherry- pick examples and draw from them broad generalizations. Many individuals will perceive or remember only the evidence that is consistent with their initial beliefs” Joseph Stiglitz, “The Price of Inequality”

Today the nation is divided politically into major camps based upon classes: Republicans and Democrats. The field of battle is the November presidential election. Each side frames its perceptions to convince voters their viewpoint is correct and the other is wrong.

It’s my belief that framing issues through our perceptions blinds us to the views of the other and robs us of objectivity and the truth. Usually the truth lies between the extremes.

The late Stephen Covey, in his best-selling book, “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” states: “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” Rather than rejecting the other side’s point of view, we need to listen first to understand what they believe based upon their frame of reference and environment. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with them. It just means we need to really listen to them to understand why they believe the way they do.

I have some very bright conservative business friends who argue the Republican view very cogently. They can cite examples why they believe as they do. Their arguments based upon their examples ring true. I’ve also got progressive (liberal) friends who can do the same thing with their positions. Their examples also ring true based upon their life experiences. Let’s look at the two presidential candidates as examples of these differing life experiences.

Mitt Romney grew up with a father who was the CEO of American Motors. Through hard work and intelligence George Romney became very successful and wealthy. Mitt observed his parents and they shaped his views and perceptions.

In a similar way, each of us as we grew up observed our role models to become the people we are today. Mitt Romney used his life experiences and intelligence to become governor of Massachusetts, organizer of the Salt Lake City Olympics and successful CEO of Bain Capital.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, had very different life experiences, growing up as a biracial child without a father. He lived in Hawaii and Indonesia. He attended Columbia and Harvard and got a law degree. He also learned a great deal by becoming a community organizer in Chicago. He was able to emerge from this background to be elected to the Illinois state legislature and then to become one of Illinois’ senators and then be elected to the presidency of the United States—a remarkable and rapid rise to prominence.

If you examine each of their backgrounds you should be able to see these two men have become successful through intelligence and drive. It should be obvious to see that because of their experiences they see the world differently. Both have different perceptions of what the world is like and how the federal government should be run.

For each man, the truth is obvious, and at the same time different because of their backgrounds. That means we as voters need to objectively examine each candidate’s perspectives, asking ourselves which view is closest to our own life experiences and understanding of the truth. At the same time it’s important to give the benefit of the doubt to assume that the other candidate is acting sincerely according to his values.

We then need to be able to objectively weigh each man’s strengths and weaknesses, based upon their past records. If we can’t objectively list our favorite candidate’s weaknesses and his opponent’s strengths, then we are doing what Joseph Stiglitz noted in the introductory paragraph of this column. We “will perceive or remember only the evidence that is consistent with (our) initial beliefs.”

We will need to be aware that if we don’t see our own biases, we are guilty of what Stiglitz warns us against. We humans tend to “cherry-pick examples and draw from them broad generalizations.” To be able to make good choices we must become aware of our own biases and life experiences; we must let our reason, combined with our emotions, help us decide. That’s what Stephen Covey meant when he said, “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.”

More in Opinion

Maybe it’s time Congress takes back its power

The Constitution gives Congress the most power of the three branches of government.

Poking dead things with sticks

They don’t mince words when they call it a “crawl space,” do they?

America is denying three hard truths

There are three major hard truths that our current government has been denying with great vigor: The Mueller Russia-U.S. Presidential election connection investigation, the war in Afghanistan, and the growing national deficit.

Promote the common good by ensuring individual liberty

Citizens following their passions and dreams improve the lot for all.

The three personas of President Trump

There’s Teleprompter Trump, Raw Meat Trump and Twitter Trump.

Attitudes change on farming non-native salmon

Their warnings fell on deaf ears, but the tables have turned on the fish farming industry in Washington.

Voting yes on levies means investing in our kids’ future

We are White River graduates. Our parents are White River graduates. Our siblings are White River graduates, and our kids will one day be White River graduates.

Voting for the levy with make a major #impact for our schools

I have four children in Enumclaw public schools and they all benefit from programs that are supported by the renewal of the operational levy.

Great schools mean great communities

As former elected School Board Member, State Legislator and King County Judge, we understand the importance of educating all children.

Political soap opera won’t end until midterm elections

Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as President Trump, have all taken gambles that will shape the November midterms.

A small act of kindness can make a big impact | SoHaPP

Join SoHaPP’s book group this February to discuss “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. Don’t have the book? Check it out at the Enumclaw Library or visit The Sequel.

Vote ‘yes’ on replacement Education Programs levy

As a high school senior that has spent the entirety of my school life in Enumclaw, I know we have to take it upon ourselves to ensure the efficiency and inclusiveness of our school system.