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The Town Crier

Are We Driven by Our Stereotypes?

by C. John Grom  |  December 21, 2014

When we believe bad things about good people and vote for politicians who do the same, are we allowing our political stereotypes to block social progress?

Doing so leads to a lack of civility on the part of our government leaders making it all but impossible to solve problems by creating a no-win environment.  They show little interest in the issues of the day beyond the effect on their re-election hopes. The history of national healthcare is a case in point.

President Nixon proposed a national healthcare plan in the early seventies that was killed in congress by the Democrat majority. President Clinton’s plan met such rigid opposition from Republicans that it never even made it to congress. President Obama succeeded in passing a plan that was patterned after a State plan that was fashioned by his 2012 opponent who vowed to repeal it if elected.

Why such self-defeating behavior?

A joint effort by psychologists from the University of Virginia and The University of Southern California showed that people who described themselves as Liberals and Conservatives have stereotypical misunderstandings about each other on a range of moral foundations but, in reality, share many of the same values.

While there are extremes among people where the likelihood of finding common ground is remote, there is a large middle ground where cooperation and reconciliation is possible through civil political discourse.

Setting our stereotypes aside

When we look at the major issues of the day from outside our own political prism  and engage in a civil exchange of ideas with someone with a different point of view, we’re on our way to being part of a solution. When we look across the political spectrum and see that we have essentially the same values, goals and aspirations as those we regard as opponents, can reconciliation and rational decision making be far behind?

Our current course of tribal warfare can only result in continued conflict, the piling up of unintended consequences and a future that we’ll not be proud to leave to our children and grandchildren. When we reject civil discourse we’re getting further away from where we want to be as a society. As a people we are better than that.



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