i live in two political worlds. the place where i work, my family: all very much supporting obama. where i live, or at the gym or barbershop or diner out here: close to 100% romney. the way each of these groups thinks about the other is very disconcerting. each group is entirely incomprehensible to the other. in the gym this morning people were just rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at each other at the very idea that any rational or decent person could possiby vote for obama. it's obvious that obama is basically a welfare-state socialist whose whole schtick betrays basic american values. how can people be so deluded by these institutional elites and the leftist media? and the liberal group just regards romney as an extremist who loves greed and wants to destroy the social contract by which we help each other lead better lives. (well of course each is completely right about the other, even if massively deceived about themselves.)
so insulated is each group from the other that the members of the opposite group sink to something like an inhuman or monstrous status. and within each group, the sources of information and opinion are shared, while almost no one, i believe, really goes and looks for something from the other side, which is strange to me. but i guess if it's already obvious that they're monsters or dolts, why would you? the funny thing is that if you subtract the politics and just work out in east berlin, pa or have lunch with a colleague, most all these people seem like ok people, so each one's idea that the other is evil or merely manipulated doesn't seem plausible.
there are a few things that i find unbelievably frustrating about this situation. first of all, on both sides, people just buy their politics off the rack as a complete outfit. i don't see how you possibly just nod along with every single thing paul krugman or sean hannity says, and then go to the barbershop or the coffee shop and repeat it verbatim. ain't you got no pride? no one appears to me to be thinking for themselves, and in a way, that makes it almost silly to argue with them: argue with one, you've argued with them all. it sort of doesn't seem like them talking at all, and folks are incredibly uncritical in this condition of any argument that appears to support their position, perfectly indiscriminate, so that let's say the quality of the arguments sags ever more alarmingly. people don't really want a reason; they want a stick.
second, from where i am, the huge rhetorical distinctions of liberty against mutual aid, or small against big government etc can't but appear to be absurdly out of proportion to the actual distinction between the policies, which appear to me to be slight adjustments to the basic squishy totalitarian model of merger of state and capital, surveillance and dependency (wait i like this formulation). seriously, folks are arguing about 5% in the marginal tax rate as though it were hobbes against locke or smith against marx or rawls against nozick; no, those are principled positions!
anyway: you can do better than that. i have faith. if you are a dem i assign you to watch fox news's election coverage, if a rep, msnbc. that'd be a start anyway. think of yourself as an anthropologist; you want to try to figure out how these people think. or start with this question: how did these folks, who are indeed folks, i.e. things more or less like myself, come to this orientation?