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Opinion: Differing Opinions Don't Call for Shaming

by on November 17, 2020 4:45 AM

Two weeks ago on this website I made a prediction about the presidential election which turned out to be true. I stated that less than a third of all eligible voters would cast a ballot for the winner. There are an estimated 240 million citizens who are eligible to vote in this country and, as I write this, here are the breakdowns of how the voting in the presidential election went:

  • Nobody: ~ 85,147,000

  • Biden/Harris: 78,662,259

  • Trump/Pence: 73,107,108

  • Others: ~3,084,000

The winner of the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden, received votes from less than 33% of the eligible voters in America. For every person who cast a ballot for the Biden-Harris ticket, there are two eligible voters who did not. If you voted for Biden-Harris and are standing with a random person on your right, and a random person on your left, it’s likely that neither of them shares your view of the election.

The reason I bring this up is that I have family and friends who voted for the Biden-Harris ticket. I have family and friends who voted for the Trump-Pence ticket. I have family and friends who didn’t vote at all. 

But apparently the family and friends who voted for the Trump-Pence ticket are defective humans. And I’m not talking about insults or taunts tossed their direction by random internet posters or anonymous street thugs. No, I’m talking about respected media outlets publishing the respected thoughts of respected writers.

David Bromwich writes in the November issue of Harper’s magazine, “Trump, however, is possessed of the remarkable ability to render large numbers of people as crazy as himself. This holds true for his voter base.”

Tom Nichols wrote a column on TheAtlantic.com on Nov. 4, titled, “A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath.” He goes on to write that, “Sadly, the voters who said in 2016 that they chose Trump because they thought he was ‘just like them’ turned out to be right.”

Former President Barack Obama, in a CBS interview with Gayle King, responded to her question about the 72 million people who voted for Donald Trump by saying, “…the power of, that alternative worldview that’s presented in the media that those voters consume, carries a lot of weight.”

Even another columnist on this website wrote, “About 70 million of them, or 30 percent, voted to reelect a despicable human being.” In describing the only sense he could make of their continuing support he stated, “... even at the best of times, we humans are less rational than we give ourselves credit for. At the worst of times, our irrationality borders on the suicidal.”

And all but the first of those were written after the Trump-Pence ticket received 10 million more votes than it did in 2016.

Is it so difficult to believe that people with different opinions exist that some of these writers feel justified in name-calling and shaming these people?

But here in Happy Valley we don’t have to worry about that mad part of the electorate who voted for Trump-Pence do we? Hasn’t everyone seen the red and blue county-by-county maps of the United States which show blue counties as those won by Biden and red as those won by Trump? And Centre County was the lone blue county sticking out in the middle of Pennsylvania? We don’t live among those Trump voters so we don’t need to worry about being polite or respectful.

As Lee Corso is fond of saying on College Gameday, “Not so fast my friend.” 

If you look at just the map of Centre County and color each precinct red or blue in the same fashion, what do you see? Similar to how the large U.S. map is predominantly red, Centre County is also predominantly red. That’s right, 75% of the land mass in Centre County is red. Now, I know, we all see the postings on the web with county-by-county maps that are titled “Land Doesn’t Vote.” Which is correct in only the most literal sense. Such as, chipmunks don’t vote. Or, paperclips don’t vote. In our system of government we allow land ownership, and landowners do vote. And some vote with their land in mind when they do so. 

So the question becomes again, how is it that we are unable to accept that people with different opinions exist? As Michael Douglas’s character says in the 1995 movie “The American President,” “America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say ‘You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’”

For example, is it impossible to fathom that millions of Americans might find abortion morally repugnant and reprehensible? That they believe the embryo created by fertilization is and always will be a human and that destroying it is tantamount to murder? And that their strong feelings about this issue might cause them to vote a certain way?

Or is it incomprehensible to think that people might be concerned about their retirements? The Dow closed at 19,827.25 on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, and as I write this it is at 29,883.64. That’s a gain of over 10,000 points. A more than 50% increase. In less than four years. Only 4% of Americans working in the private sector work at a company with a defined benefit plan. This means if they have any retirement plan at all it’s likely a 401(k) or an IRA and is almost definitely tied to the stock market. Might a 50% increase in their retirement accounts cause people to vote for more of those returns?

Is it inconceivable that people might be worried about their jobs? That elimination of an industry such as fracking – which regardless of the industry employment numbers you believe or whether you agree with the practice – still employs people, and that those people might be concerned enough about their incomes to vote for a specific candidate?

The possible reactions I described above don’t sound like the workings of “crazy” “suicidal” “sociopaths” with an “alternative worldview,” do they? Then why the blaming, shaming, labeling and dismissive language? 

My wife is fond of repeating a quote from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and author who said, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” Is it possible people are becoming that which they hate? I would encourage us all to look in the mirror.

 



John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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