Time to Discuss an Unfortunate Trait That Both Progressives and Conservatives Share

Without a doubt, politics is an emotionally-driven subject that can often make otherwise normal people completely irrational and impossible to reason with. It’s a topic that’s filled with millions of people who:

  • Attack anyone who tells them what they don’t want to hear.
  • Buy into conspiracies when the truth/facts don’t support what they think should be real.
  • Often use social media to lash out at, attack, and personally criticize people they don’t like.
  • Claim any media entity or journalist who doesn’t report what they want to be told is “working against them.”
  • Usually have completely unrealistic expectations about what their side will be able to accomplish.
  • Think they know more than legitimate experts who’ve dedicated their life to the field in which they work.
  • Typically irrationally hate and loathe the “other side.”

Wait, did I say politics? I apologize. I was actually talking about the subject of sports.

Do you see the problem?

The term “fan” is derived from the word “fanatic” which is defined as:

Marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.

That’s an issue because politics shouldn’t be about “uncritical devotion.” It’s also a subject that shouldn’t be driven by emotion or blind loyalty toward a particular “side.” Politics should always be about facts, truth, and reality.

It shouldn’t be about Fox News lying to and manipulating conservative voters by telling them what they want to hear. Nor should it be so-called “liberals” lashing out at progressives for calling out the left when they act just like the conservatives they claim to oppose. Politics isn’t supposed to be about creating a fictional world where you’re surrounded with people who tell you want you want to hear, it’s supposed to be about basing our decisions on facts, truth, and reality to create a better society.

Then if facts, truth, and reality don’t support something we wished were true, but ultimately isn’t, we simply change our minds — because that’s how things should work.

Unfortunately, for many, on both the left and the right, they’ve turned politics into more of a “sport” driven by emotion rather than a subject meant to be based on facts and reason. Today, politics is mostly just shouting and yelling at one another in a perpetual argument based on what both sides want to be true rather than what is the truth. Much like in sports where there’s almost always a “winner” and a “loser,” progressives and conservatives often act as if the only way to claim “victory” is to live in a world where the word “compromise” is used in a negative context and the only way to “win” is by doing your best to see that every single thing the other side supports or wants is defeated.

It’s idiotic.

If you doubt me, go read the comments sections of your average sports article on a mainstream website. It’s endless back and forth arguments where people aren’t concerned with listening to any points someone else makes, it’s just people who’ve “chosen a side,” fighting with one another in a perpetual contest of, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and nothing you say will change my mind.”

Heck, one of ESPN’s top-rated shows is called First Take where two people spend two hours basically shouting at one another. Neither person is trying to actually make valid points based on reason, or even facts, they’ve just “picked a side” and they’re going to argue it no matter how wrong or ridiculous it is.

Sadly, that’s how most political debates seem to go nowadays — just two “sides” shouting at one another until time runs out or they’re forced to move on.

I’ve written over 4,000 original articles over the past several years. In that time, I’ve been called everything from a “Republican” to a “radical leftist,” despite the fact that it would be impossible for me to be both. All because, at various times, and in various articles, I’ve said things that didn’t pander to whatever those particular individuals wanted to hear. To the conservative I called out, I’m a radical leftist. To the liberal I didn’t pander to, I’m no better than a Republican. Two different sides of the political spectrum of people who think they have absolutely nothing in common, who actually behave much more alike than they’ll ever admit.

The truth is, the prosperity we seek in this country will be found in compromise and with balance. Much like everything else in life, all of just one thing is almost never good. Why is it that we use the word “balance” in a positive way when we discuss things such as education, our health, our work/personal life, our relationships, and practically everything else that impacts our lives, yet when it comes to politics, many somehow believe that the only correct answer for anything is an “all-or-nothing” ideologically-based approach?

Now I’m not saying that one “side” isn’t more correct than the other. Just like drinking more water and eating healthier foods are better than more consuming more fats and cholesterol, that doesn’t mean that certain types of fats and cholesterol aren’t also things our bodies need.

But what I’m seeing in politics nowadays (and the truth is it’s been this way for quite some time) is that too many people are treating what goes on in our government, and our political parties, like they do the sports they follow. A key difference being, even in sports the experts often do things that infuriate the “fans” because they understand the bigger picture. It’s the NBA coach who rests his players on certain nights to keep them more fresh and healthy for the playoffs, or the NFL coach who sits their starters during the last week of the season to avoid any injuries before the big push toward the Super Bowl. These are moves that often infuriate fans, many of whom want to always win and see their favorite players, no matter what.

That’s why experts are chosen to run and coach teams, whereas fans sit on the sidelines and cheer. It’s usually big picture thinking vs. win now!

What gives them the ability to do that is that most coaches don’t really have to worry about what fans think because they’re not “elected” to their jobs. They don’t have to pander to the fans who might boo them when the starters are sitting for a particular game they end up losing because they’re not beholden to pandering to what’s popular. For these coaches, it’s about putting their team in the best position to win long term because that’s not only what they’re being paid to do, but it’s the best way to keep their own jobs.

However, in politics, elected officials must listen to the “fans” (aka the voters). During primaries, often the politician who ultimately wins the election is the one who “wins the popularity contest” by telling voters what they want to hear rather than what they might need to hear. Politicians can’t really concern themselves with wondering if what they’re saying and doing is feasible long term because there won’t be any “long term” if they don’t effectively pander to enough voters to win their party’s primary and ultimately the general election. Then once they’re in office, and reality sets in, that’s when voters typically become angry, often feeling betrayed, because the person who pandered most to what they wanted to hear — instead of what they might have needed to hear — isn’t able to deliver upon the unicorns and leprechauns they promised during their campaign.

Obviously I’m not advocating that politicians should stop listening to the voters. What I am saying is that I feel voters need to stop treating politics like a popularity contest where we like or dislike a particular person… just because we’re on “another side.”

The GOP’s support of Donald Trump is a prime example of this. I’ve lost count of the things he’s said or done that Republicans and the conservative media would have never let any Democrat, especially Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, get away with.

In sports, being irrational about the expectations of your team is typically harmless. If someone wants to “pump sunshine” about the chances their team has at making the playoffs or winning a championship, there’s usually no harm in that.

Yet in politics, those sort of fanatic, unrealistic expectations based on irrational desires rather than factual reality are dangerous.

At the end of the day, politics isn’t supposed to be treated like a sport, nor are voters supposed to act like fans. Politics is supposed to be based on facts, reason, truth, and reality. We must stop letting our pride and ego get in the way of making this country better because we refuse to admit that we were wrong, that the other “side” might have valid points, or that many problems in life aren’t solved by an “all-or-nothing” approach.

Whether or not the majority of progressives or conservatives want to admit it, on most issues as Americans, and more importantly as human beings, despite our differences, we’re all on the same “team.”

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Facebook to let me know what you think.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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