How well do you know your fellow Americans?

Can we talk about this?

To understate things significantly, this is an unusual Presidential election we are facing. And the degree of “unusuality” has only served to increase the heat of our political rhetoric. While we’re already fairly quick to demonize our opponents — overtly or subtlety — that tendency has been magnified during this election season. This is a tendency has long bothered me, and so with an increase in the mudslinging has come an increase in my impatience with this unfortunate tendency.

It makes me impatient because — and I’m generalizing here — I don’t think most of us make a real effort to understand why those we differ with on political issues (or any sort of issue, for that matter) hold the views that they do. We are often shocked, shocked! that someone could possibly vote for (or against) Candidate A or be for (or against) Policy Position X.

On the other hand, I tend to think that the vast majority of political views have some  plausibility to them, and while I find some of them to in the end be unpersuasive, I can usually see the rationale that would lead someone to support them.

There are several reasons why I think it’s important to make a serious effort to understand the views of those with whom we disagree: some go back to my studies in ecumenism, some go to my desire to convince others to accept my argument, which requires that I get inside their head to understand theirs.  😉

It’s this motivation which made me such a fan of the Ideological Turing Test (ITT), a social experiment which can be an effective way to determine the extent to which we truly understand the rationale of people who views whose differ from our own. Thanks to DarwinCatholic, I first heard of ITTs at atheist-turned-Catholic Leah Libresco’s blog when she used an ITT to compare the extent to which atheists and Christians truly understand one another’s positions (she came up with the atheist/Christian ITT prior to becoming a Christian herself).

In short, ITTs typically consist of a group of people from each of the various sides of an ideological question, in which each person is asked to submit multiple sets of answers to a series of questions, one set according to their own perspective, other sets according to the differing perspectives. So in Libresco’s ITT, the “panelists” submitted two sets of answers to her series of questions: one set from their own perspective (atheist or Christian), the other set from the opposite perspective. Then, the public is invited to vote as to who they think wrote a given answer (the author and their perspective are kept secret during the voting stage). The goal for the panelists, of course, is to be able to so successfully mimic the opposing viewpoint’s perspective that your “fake” answer is voted as authentic, especially by those who hold that perspective. Being able to do so would give a strong indication as to your grasp of a position with which you actually disagree.

With that as the background, we come to the point of this post: I think it would be interesting to run an ITT with regard to this year’s Presidential elections, with three positions: voting for Mrs. Clinton, voting for Mr. Trump, and voting for neither (that might be voting for a third party candidate or simply not voting for any Presidential candidate).

The question for this ITT is simple: in 300 words or less (for each of the three positions), why are you voting the way you are?

I’ve already shared this post with some friends who collectively hold to all of these positions, but I’d be open to submissions from others, so if you’re interested in participating as a panelist and submitting answers for all three positions, either say so in the comments or email me at chris.burgwald@gmail.com with “ITT” in the subject line.

I hope to have all the submissions in by next week, at which point voting will begin.

One final thought: even if you aren’t a panelist or don’t even vote, I would invite you to consider what is the ultimate point of this experiment: how well do you understand how those you disagree with think?

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