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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2 thoughts on “How well do you know your fellow Americans?”

  1. I don’t know how we can make this a less contentious campaign. First of all, the Democrat person who is running is deep into rather criminal behaviors. So when the Democrats (liberals, leftists) come after us and our values which aren’t their values, then we have to fight back or lose. This election is a war. We fight. We battle. War isn’t pretty and it certainly isn’t peaceful until the “war” is over. However, because of Satan, the war never gets over while we’re on earth. So we do battle. The meaner Satan (or the enemy) gets, the harder and more contentious the battle. People hate that and tend to be willing to pull back and let the other side win. Let the other side have its way even if it isn’t good for us. You might call that a faux peace, but it has it’s repercussions. For our country that means descending deeper into the chaos that will come. For our souls that means damnation after we die. So fight we must!! There are many ways of fighting, of course, but the smartest of us may not be able to come up with the best way in politics. As of now, our country’s politicians have not fought the downside into the depths, against our constitution and our morals. So we have a candidate who comes forth who will fight and we use him as our surrogate because we have felt helpless otherwise. Since war is hell, then the tactics tend to be hellish. They match the other side’s intensity. We’ll see who wins. My desire mostly is to fight Satan one way or the other for the betterment of my own soul for eternity and hopefully fight for our country to make it a place where God can bless our efforts so we can be a light to the world. I’m sick of the depths to which our morals have sunk as in abortion, gender issues and religious freedoms. There seems to be no bottom to it so we have to defeat the enemy. That is never a nice and peaceful action.

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  2. The greatest work ever done on the topic of how it is that the human mind arrives at and formulates moral and political judgments has fortunately already been researched, reviewed and published. Jonathan Haidt has done mankind a great service in presenting the principles of the “Righteous Mind” in his seminal book:

    The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

    https://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777

    I highly recommend this book which presents a framework for understanding the universal motivations and factors which are at work in all of us as we exercise value judgments. It represents a paradigm shift in understanding the mechanisms behind your own judgment and that of your fellow man. It will remain a challenge before Christianity over the next several generations to integrate the sociological & psychological truths that Haidt has so insightfully and incisively discovered, into Christianity’s own understanding of the human person.

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