Let's Return to a Simpler Time

Let's return to a simpler time, when adults didn't ask one another what they planned to do in the voting booth.

Just eight years ago, I would have disagreed vehemently with that suggestion.  I would have considered it every American's responsibility to contribute to the Marketplace of Ideas and get their thoughts out there.  That was when I believed we made decisions as rational beings that consider the facts, weigh them and come to a decision they can support.

But we don't make decisions like that.  At least, most of us don't.

We make decisions emotionally, and then surround ourselves with hand-picked facts that support our position, and challenge things that we consider affronts to our position.  We conveniently ignore facts that don't fit our worldview.  And, worst of all, we judge and demonize people who don't come to the same conclusions we do and wonder how they can come to their conclusions rationally when in possession of the same set of facts we are.

But if we understood that our decision-making process - for most people, anyway - doesn't follow the process we've set out as an ideal, we wouldn't be so judgmental.  We wouldn't be eager to end friendships, or silence voices that give weight to opinions that we don't currently hold.

We fail to understand that no matter who we vote for, some significant percentage of our friends and acquaintances are going to become so emotionally charged and will be so unable to understand your choices, that they will lose respect for you.

They'll block you in social media, cancel plans you have together, silently cross you off the consideration list for a piece of business they were thinking about giving your company, or decide to no longer trust you.

I've not posted publicly in social media about any of the candidates this election cycle.  If anything, I've expressed a certain awe at the strategies being employed - good or bad - and marveled at how they've changed the playing field over time.  (I've always been interested in strategy.)  I've appreciated those things for their strategic value and like thinking about how they'll affect the race.

But I've not publicly committed to a candidate, nor have I gotten involved in the typical arguments you tend to see on social media.  For my political safety valve, I've selected a group of trusted and open-minded friends, and I've kept my comments limited to discussions with them.

Why?  Because if you accept the notion that maybe people don't make decisions the way we might have thought they did, you begin to understand how little effect the discourse actually has.  You begin to look at the risk equation, realizing that every public post, every overheard comment and every opinion that travels about the upcoming election is more of a liability than a credit.

After all, if most people are surrounding themselves with their own supporting facts, and largely ignoring what doesn't fit their worldview - if decisions are made emotionally rather than rationally, trying to change someone's mind is a lot like trying to tell them how they should feel when they fall in love.

I'm not up for that, particularly when showing a bias one way or another would cause me to lose friends I need.

You probably disagree.  You probably think I'm cowardly.  But consider this - I value you and your friendship more than I'm prepared to risk it, simply because we might have different versions of the facts, or different emotional drivers that would cause us to vote one way versus another.

So, let's go back to that period our parents or grandparents lived through, in which people kept their voting booth behavior close to the vest, and we weren't so eager to try to change one another's minds at all cost.