Voting and Critical Thinking

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A recent CNN article reports on voters who are traditionally Republican but are feeling conflicted during this election because they have either directly or indirectly benefited because of ObamaCare.

Disclaimer: I assume you could find such an issue with either party and voters on both sides. I’m addressing this particular article because it is the one I found.

For me, the most interesting thing about this article is what it says about our critical thinking skills and how those apply to the way we vote:

Campbell, 49, has voted Republican in nearly every presidential election since he cast his vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, but this year might be different. For two years his 22-year-old stepdaughter, a self-employed dog trainer, didn’t have health insurance. Then Obamacare kicked in and she was allowed onto her father’s insurance.

“If something had happened to her during those two years it would have been a disaster,” Campbell says.

The Olathe, Kansas, resident is leaning toward Obama, but not just because of his stepdaughter. Campbell’s wife, Barbara, has diabetes and is in the final stages of breast cancer treatment. She’s now on his insurance, but if he ever lost his job, his wife would be faced with trying to buy insurance on her own and would surely be rejected.

“I’m really torn,” he said. “Because of Obama, I now have a wife who can get covered. But really, at heart, I’m a limited-government kind of guy.”

There are several mentioned in the article who say, without doubt, that they will vote Republican even knowing it will make things worse off for them. These are people that have been born and raised identifying themselves, at least partially, with a political party. And this happens with both parties.

I believe it is deeply important to think and rethink about the way we are voting and why. Democracy is, in many ways, an experiment. We have to see what works and what doesn’t. And things that worked 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, may not work anymore. I believe that it is deeply flawed or a total lack of reasoning that leads one to identify themselves as either “Republican” or “Democrat.” I do have a personal preference at this moment in time, and I know who I’m voting for, but I’m still not comfortable at all saying I am that party or even that I belong to it.

The final quote above I also find interesting. Campbell acknowledges he and his family have benefited from ObamaCare and the expanded role that government now plays in healthcare. Yet, he holds on to his identity as a “limited-government kind of guy.” My follow-up question would be why? If the evidence he sees in his life suggests that improvements are to be had from a more involved government, isn’t that enough to spur someone to sit down and take another and hopefully more in-depth look at their reasoning and why they favor limited government?

I don’t care if you identify as Republican or Democrat or Green or Communist. If the evidence of your day-to-day life conflicts with your views, that should signal to you that it’s time to rethink your views.

What bothers me most of all during the election season is the lack of thinking, and thinking in context with real-life experience and history.

The issues facing our country are nuanced and complex, and as a citizen of a democracy, part of the responsibility is being aware of these issues and voting in constructive ways. How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions for better critical thinking on the issues:

  1. Watch less television. Studies show the more “news” you watch about any subject, the less you understand it. That goes for all networks.
  2. Read more books. Reading increases our ability to parse and understand complex arguments.
  3. Listen to more than one side of an issue. Confirmation bias causes us to seek out information we already agree with. Challenge yourself to read and carefully consider positions you don’t agree with. This will allow you to more fully understand and debate the issues even if you don’t change your mind. And hopefully you can better understand the other view and why people might hold it.
  4. Check your anger at the door. People disagree on things. If we can do it in a well-reasoned way, there is no need to get angry. We need less people yelling and more people discussing.

I truly believe that these few actions can make a huge difference in the climate and direction of our country. Are you up to it?

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