Often in life there’s a need to try and read the minds of other people. An easy example would be in sports when one football team’s defense tries to guess the play the opposing offense is going to run next.
In politics it’s also easy to conjure up situations where there’s a need to figure out the thinking behind behavior. Here’s a question I have all the time: what do my fellow Republicans and conservatives think is going to happen to change things in this country?
Some, it seems, think the media will magically start treating conservative policy proposals fairly and report the facts of liberal policy failures thoroughly. I’m not sure what makes them believe this since it has never happened in my lifetime.
Others who are new to the activism arena or who are recently elected office holders seem to think something like the following: “Okay, I’m here now, and because I’m so wonderful and I’m so smart — the world is going to transform itself into a place where there will be a lot fewer low information voters.” How, exactly, this transformation is to take place is a mystery to me.
Many veterans of the political arena seem to be of the opinion that we merely need to do more of the same. Run only the same low percentage of good candidates, and only once in a while run a campaign where voters take note. The rest of the time, well, as the saying goes, “the work done is good enough for who it’s for.” They’re convinced that they need only do what they’ve always done and the mystical process of alchemy will cause our state and our nation to take a dramatic u-turn.
Others who host radio talk shows or run think tanks are, in their heart of hearts, convinced that the size of their talent and the sheer amount of studies produced will cause a seismic shift in the political and governmental realm. Why they think that is beyond my ability to comprehend. Talk radio and think tanks are still boutique businesses geared towards reaching only part of the choir. Both may pay well at times and lead to a lot of job satisfaction for the players but we know now from decades of experience that the public opinion needle hasn’t moved.
It would appear that for all of those named above, my idea of sparking a communications revolution on our side is a waste of time or something far too difficult. The notion that in order to get a different result we have to do things differently, well, that’s the crazy talk of dreamers.
I’ve met some smart activists who have entered the fray within the past few years — they’re the kind of people who figure things out quickly and now understand more than most political veterans. After just a few years they’re well versed in the many ways to be frustrated with the moribund and often corrupt political process.
My attempts above at mind reading lay out just one of the reasons the political arena is so frustrating. Rarely is a fresh perspective brought in. Rarely do we see imagination at work. Rarely is there any innovation or improvement. The fact that people think differently, use their imagination, and innovate and improve in almost every other area of human endeavor never permeates the average political mind.
Very few Republicans and conservatives are focused on reaching the uninformed and misinformed. Some may think they are — but what George Bernard Shaw said many decades ago still applies:
The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.
I’ve admitted I’m a broken record. I’ve understood the problem and have attempted to get key people to grasp the solution. And I’ll keep at it because the future of the country is at state.
To paraphrase what Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, these are the kind of situations that try men’s souls. I know there are many like me who stand above the ignorance of the self-labeled experts and reject the pessimism of the “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” that surround us. “‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink,” Paine wrote, “but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”