by Bradley Knockel
Scientific studies show that US citizens' policy beliefs have little to do with whether they identify as Democrat or Republican, yet they typically vote how they identify (not on their policy beliefs). Voting should not be like choosing a football team! Don't choose a team; choose your mind and the best candidate, and let's do our best to be independent thinkers. Reason is less extreme than the political parties, so let's help reduce extremism.
Scientific studies show that people who strongly identify as Democrat or Republican are far more likely to believe in many conspiracy theories (each party believes somewhat different conspiracies). Don't believe in conspiracies! That is, don't be an extremist who thinks based off of a label! Be an independent thinker instead. Trying to see fact and truth is hard enough without a pre-packaged ideology coloring your thinking.
Interestingly, the most "informed" people are often the most ignorant/extreme. Many people fill their brains with irrelevant political facts. For example, debates are had, but often not a single commentator is concerned about the subtle logic of the arguments or their factual underpinnings, but about the show and the game as if the debate were a sporting event between your hometown and the rival team. Commentators talk and talk, but about such trivial things, yet people think that they are becoming informed by listening to all the spin. The media does this to get your views because substance, logic, and facts are not as sensationally entertaining. The worst thing for the media's views would be for them to explain to both parties how wrong they are and that they need to think independently! Personally, I find deep analysis to be deeply satisfying. The deeper you go, the more interesting things get!
Do I have an ideology? If you call trying not to make decisions based off of ideologies an ideology, than yes I do! I probably have others too, but I especially try to make very general words like Republican and Democrat not be them. Where has this "ideology" taken me? Well, when I talk to typical Republicans, I am regularly shocked at how they value their guts (or "common sense" as they call it) over a more detailed factual analysis, and how they can repeatedly push facts aside. When I talk to typical Democrats, I am regularly surprised at how much they value their bleeding hearts (or "empathy" as they call it) over the bottom line. I choose facts and science, especially in this complex interconnected world that we live in, a world that our brains did not evolve to handle! Our guts and empathy are very important for our small-scale daily interactions, but science and logic are needed to build countries!
How do you think independently? Firstly, don't watch any 24-hour news network. Instead, look for facts. Google things like "Is it true that ______", especially if something sounds like a conspiracy theory, then click on as many diverse reputable sources as you can. If the topic is something that science can have a say, Google "What is the scientific consensus about ______". For an issue, you can often Google what other countries do and the pros and cons. If it's good, think about if/how the US could do it. Then try to figure out why we aren't doing it—it's likely due to the extremism caused by our two-party system, but could also be caused by the US's commitment to certain high-cost freedoms (guns and a poorly-regulated free market). Oh, and never get your news from social media. NEVER. Or TV or radio ads! Basically, avoid any source that will normalize bullshit conspiracy theories that even the best of us sometimes fall for.
Do you have reputable evidence that your country controls the media? If yes, you live under a dictator, and you should not believe the media. If not, you probably don't live under a dictator. Dictators need media control to gain the support of the population as the dictator "protects them" from fictional threats. Much of the media is crap (such as social media), but fact-based journalism is the good kind of media that is crucial for keeping a country free. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I was very surprised to learn that most Russians supported Putin because the state-controlled media portrayed Ukrainians as Nazis and was not reporting Russia's war crimes. Putin's support wasn't just for show! I was surprised because Russians have access to the Internet and can simply Google for independent journalism. I say to the majority of Russians: Putin is a dictator. And I say to many in the US: (1) you don't live under a dictatorship simply because your elected representatives make laws such as mask mandates that you don't like, and (2) don't be cocky about your freedom when you freely choose to believe in conspiracy theories planted in your social media by Russians.
When you are researching, find articles that list citations, authors, and publishing date. Trust .org, .gov, and .edu over .com websites. Keep in mind that the media often misunderstands science. A single scientific paper means nothing, so ignore all the many media stories about a single scientific study. Many sources agreeing on something means nothing, so the world is round even though lots of websites disagree. The majority of scientists agreeing on something is everything. We don't need to understand the details of the science behind what is true; we only need to understand that science is the best system we have of producing knowledge. Do not cherry pick, but look for reputable graphs and quantities instead. Do not fall for the appeal to authority fallacy by believing whatever Musk, Pelosi, or Trump says—do not give a crap about any single personality except when voting for them! Do not just try to attack the extremists that believe in the opposite type of extremism that you believe in! Horrible Google searches include the name of a politician (except when you are deciding if you should vote for them) or include words like liberal, conservative, Democrats, or Republicans.
Because everybody thinks their "facts" are reputable, there are actually reasonably good tests to see if you are believing in a conspiracy theory rather than the more probable explanation. The first is from Carl Sagan: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Considering that nearly all conspiracy theories have all reputable evidence stacked against them, these conspiracies come no where close to meeting the extraordinary-evidence criterion. The other test has to do with the psychology of the people who believe the conspiracy theory: do the supporters (1) distrust most forms of establishment, (2) have a way of always spinning evidence against their ideas somehow into evidence for their ideas showing that they are unable to consider both sides, or (3) jump to conclusions based on "patterns" in a limited set of questionable data? For example, when a group of people start posting about some recent conspiracy theory on social media and their accounts are deleted, they take this not-extraordinary evidence as "proof" that we shouldn't trust the social-media establishment instead of taking the deletion of their accounts as proof that you shouldn't be posting conspiracy theories on social media. All of this could have been avoided if they had just followed the golden rule: don't get (or share!) news using social media.
When should you Google good political questions? Start now! Seriously! Think of a few things you want to research and research them correctly. Right now. If we never start, we can never grow the extremely important habit of asking good questions and doing good research. It never gets easy to ask questions that could prove ourselves wrong, but we must.
Honestly, I don't often follow the news! We need to stay minimally informed so that we know which issues we need to research, but quality is my goal. The human brain is hungry for new information, and it can even get addicted to it (many people are addicted to checking their phones for the latest text or headline). In this age of information, we can get distracted from the quality that really matters. Perhaps the age of information should be called the age of noise! Instead, I thoroughly research interesting things that I hear about. The people I know who believe the weirdest conspiracies are those who are most informed by the "reality show" media that focuses on individual personalities rather than the larger issues.
Next time you plan to vote, fill your brain with facts, then see which politician supports the science and the facts. Never vote for an extremist who cannot compromise or work with people of differing opinions. Compromising is especially important when the majority of Congress is the opposing party! Some politicians would rather keep the world broken to make the other side look bad than get messy and actually fix some things. Keep in mind that, sometimes, a politician doesn't need to be correct on a certain issue due to the specific position they are running for!
In general, try to avoid making decisions based on broad ideology. Instead, look at the details and facts of each issue. Ideologies are the brain's way of being lazy. An ideology I am careful to avoid is using religion to make decisions for a country because the religious founders of the US smartly wanted separation of church and state (look at the Middle East to see why this separation is still so important!). Just because you think your religion is against abortion, is it really against it when the baby's brain hasn't started forming? And does your religion require that the government enforce your morals on everyone? Just because you think your religion says to reject and hate homosexuals, does it really say to judge and be unkind? Just because you think that your religion says that sex education and birth control are evil, did you know that teaching safe sex reduces the amount of premarital sex? Look into the facts and examine your religion with more detail and care!
Feel free to vote for one party more than other(s), but do it based on the facts, policies, and leadership skills. If you are viewed as conservative in some countries in the EU, you might be globally moderate! If you are viewed as a bit liberal in the US, you are probably globally moderate!
The remainder of this webpage is examples of how facts differ from the extremism that results without them.
Conservative extremism: The police are amazing! Only a few are racist! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: We should abolish the police! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Everyone is racist in that we all have implicit biases. There is a huge problem with racism and brutality in the police force. Up to 40% of police beat their wives (they are violent criminals) yet are trusted with carrying guns and handling sensitive racial disputes. Actual police are not the "savior" stereotype shown in movies and TV, though most are good, and some are even heroes. We greatly need a large healthy police force! Without the proper numbers, police must resort to more violent tactics. We must therefore agree that the goal is to fire (or, if you kill an unarmed person, perhaps imprison) the many bad apples in the police force so that good people will apply to give the necessary numbers. Any good cop should want the bad cops fired and have body cameras for all. And any educated person knows that prevention is best, so we must also fund education, social programs, and community programs.
Speculation: Why is the US police much worse than police in other wealthy countries? Is it because of the gun laws in the US attracting a certain type of person to our police force? Is it because other countries train their police much more? Shouldn't police be highly trained in avoidance, cultural sensitivity, and martial arts rather than just guns?
Conservative extremism: Humans do not contribute to climate change. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: We should immediately stop the oil and gas industry. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Al Gore is an idiot because nearly all politicians are. The media is also full of idiots (real journalists excluded). Luckily, we have scientists! Over 99% of climatologists believe that humans have greatly contributed to the recent greatly-accelerated climate change. Are scientists perfect? No! But science is by far the best way we have of knowing truth. Politics can affect which scientific topics get funding, and, to a much more rare extent, affect which conclusions get further funding, but the latter is nothing compared to scientific consensus.
Changing to renewable and/or nuclear alternatives will take years but must occur to prevent the displacement of billions of people. There are a lot of small things we can do as a world that can collectively build a safe future while creating new jobs in the process. Scientific research done by countries now will allow those countries to rise in power in the future.
If we immediately stop producing oil and gas, countries like China and India will just burn coal, and we will become dependent on various countries, and we can then never profit on selling other countries a better alternative to coal. The US must certainly slowly stop subsidizing fossil fuels so that the market will prevent people in the US from using the fossil fuels we might want to sell to others.
Conservative extremism: Having unwanted children is better than using birth control. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Late-term abortions that are not done to save a life are not morally questionable. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Birth control and sex education reduce unwanted pregnancies and slightly reduce premarital sex (even more than abstinence-only education)! Birth control and sex education certainly reduce unsafe sex. Unwanted children are far more likely to end up in prison. The brain doesn't start developing until 5 weeks after conception, so there is no issue with the morning-after pill or very early-term abortion (though birth control is much nicer and cheaper!). Anti-abortion laws do not greatly reduce the rate of abortions because people end up doing them, just unsafely (often killing the mother too). About 50% of fertilized eggs are naturally "aborted" by the mother's body before reaching birth. Only 1% of abortions are performed after 21 (of 40) weeks, and these late-term abortions are usually done either for medical reasons or because the mother could not access an abortion earlier. Putting rape and health issues aside, I enjoy the idea of making unfit parents pay for their irresponsibility by forcing them to get off drugs, give birth, then give the baby up for adoption, but these people will usually choose abortion even if it's illegal, so you'd have to lock up anyone who got pregnant while addicted to drugs, which would just cause them to hide away from any resources that could help them.
Conservative extremism: Build a wall! Ban Muslims! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: We should let everyone into the country who wants to come in! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Our immigration system desperately needs to be fixed to allow entrance for people that we want to emigrate (educated refugees, skilled workers, and seasonal workers) to do so. We must especially stop educating people on visas then kicking them out so that other countries now benefit from the fruits of our universities. Only then can we fairly criminalize people who break the rules. Border patrol agents are mostly happy with the border fence that we have and would rather get real help rather than an expensive political symbol in the form of a wall.
Conservative extremism: Undetected voter fraud is a thing that happens in a statistically significant way! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Everyone should be able to vote! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Very young people and un-rehabilitated felons clearly should not be able to vote. Even though many people will loudly tell you that voter fraud is possible, studies show that voter fraud is statistically not significant at all. Some politicians will resort to gerrymandering to stay in power or will scare people with lies of fraud to make laws that make it much harder for poor people to vote. Lastly, we all need to do our research then vote to prevent the majority of votes coming from the extremists who get all of their information from social media!
Conservative extremism: We should fill prisons with people who sell and do drugs! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Maybe I'm an extremist because I can't think of an example of liberal extremism here. Regularly using LSD maybe?
Facts and common sense: Yes, people who sell drugs are the worst, and people doing them is harmful and depressing, but the war on drugs doesn't work (Google it!). Just as alcohol prohibition pushed alcohol into the black market leading to violent gangs and poisoning, drug prohibition has created cartels and addicts who are stigmatized from getting the help they need. Like alcohol, drugs need to be highly regulated depending on the nature of the drug. Our prisons are full (0.7% of our population is in prison) due to this war on drugs (half of people in federal prisons are there due to drugs), and we cannot afford it!
Conservative extremism: YEEHAH bang bang! In many countries, being more traditional means valuing the culture and society over one's own liberties, but, in the US, being more traditional often means pretending you're a cowboy with your open-carry guns, right to hate people who are different, and right to kill people and economies with COVID by not wearing a mask or getting a vaccine. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Pure socialism is better than a mix of capitalism and socialism! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: The often-dangerous levels of freedoms in the US allows for more interesting individuals and stories, and the US exports its stories and culture via movies, shows, and music giving it a strong cultural influence in the world that is unifying the culture of the world, allowing for businesses (and scientists) to work together. English is now the most spoken language in the world (though Mandarin Chinese has the most native speakers) allowing for a universal language! However, we must understand the great cost of our gun laws: much more violent crime and deaths per capita. Any responsible gun owner should hate the "good guy with a gun" fantasy because it is not based in facts and statistics and is an irresponsible response to gun violence. Instead, responsible gun owners want background checks required before being able to obtain a gun. Certainly, to save many police and public lives, we must never allow anyone who has been convicted of domestic violence to own guns. We must all understand that freedom isn't free, so, during the war against COVID patients overflowing the hospitals, we should have all chosen to do our small part by either wearing masks or getting vaccinated.
Conservative extremism: Every soldier is a hero protecting the greatest nation on Earth! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Make love not war! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: The US is a great nation in that we have many freedoms that are worth defending! Foreign terrorism is not a statistically significant issue (unless nukes get involved in the future). Domestic terrorism (bombings and mass shootings) is more likely to kill you than foreign terrorism, and any type of terrorism is far less likely to kill you than a car accident or gun. Interfering in foreign countries by trying to make them more democratic doesn't help them unless they ask for it (Google it!). In fact, it usually just makes things worse, and makes people want to attack the US, so why did we invade Vietnam and Iraq and kill 100,000s of Iraqi civilians? We spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined. A military is necessary, but are we overcompensating for something? When we do send our citizens to fight our wars, even if those wars are questionable, we must respect their service by taking care of their physical and mental injuries, but we often forget about them! As I see it, the main purpose of having a strong military from a unified democratic country is to keep countries like North Korea, Russia, and China in check.
Conservative extremism: The unregulated free market must rule all! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Finally, I can get my fine arts or literature degree using other people's money, then still live in my parents' basement forever! It's okay to use other people's money like this because it makes me happy! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Politicians will never blame you for the problems in the country for fear of losing your vote (the media won't either because they want your views). Before you vote, think about how you as an independent human being could be helping fix the problems in our country. For example, are you educated in a way that can help you participate in our modern economy? What would you need to gain the necessary knowledge and skills? The US greatly needs people in technical trades, nursing, and computers! Should a country help pay people for what it greatly needs such as education in these skills? Should the government help pay for literature or fine-arts degrees? Also, there is a strong correlation, especially in poor countries, between a more educated population and a healthier functioning less-extreme democracy, which is the most essential goal of politics.
Conservative extremism: The free market should have few regulations! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: The government should run everything! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: The US is trading its leadership in science for factory jobs putting our hope to be a future economic leader at great risk (other countries will design the future for the world, and the US will manufacture what they tell us to). The countries that are investing in science today (the EU, China, and India) will lead the world tomorrow! If we don't change things soon, I see China and the EU as being the future world leaders (unless the Chinese people revolt against their authoritarian government and the revolt ends in the chaos that results from a lack of unity). In general, it is well known scientifically that capitalism must be well regulated to allow a country and its people to succeed. A country investing in children is the best way to get a return on an investment, and giving money to corporations (aside from bailing them out when they fail) has no return on investment.
Speculation: If Earth can get its population growth under control and invest in science, I hope to see a future where the majority of work is done by robots and computers so that we can all follow our passions! Like in Star Trek: The Next Generation! We will likely all have to work part-time at least, but we wouldn't have to do anything tedious. Scientists and engineers could then freely focus on going to Mars! The majority of people who don't want to live in big cities can finally choose to not live in huge human-infested mega cities. I mention this because the mixture of capitalism and socialism must start leaning towards socialism as this future comes about. If this future were to unfold, small steps are all that would needed in the near future: giving weeks of vacation time every year, giving leave when you have a child (up to two or three children maybe), etc.
Conservative extremism: How dare poor people own phones! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: We must give money to all poor people to spend as they wish without needing any capitalism to motivate them! This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: The main idea is that people need a way out of poverty. If the way out (renting a home and getting an education) is too expensive, you are trapped. The entire country benefits by not having to support a poor population's healthcare, imprisonment, and food, and the entire country benefits by having more people who can meaningfully contribute to the economy. Free community college (2-year programs after already paying for 13 years of a person's education), free pre-school, smaller class sizes, and free GED programs would therefore greatly help! Curing a problem is often cheaper than paying for treating the symptoms. Family planning is very necessary for being successful, so free birth control would also greatly help. By the way, to help those in poverty, you actually have to help those in poverty—the "trickle down" hypothesis has been thoroughly scientifically discredited! People say, "How will we pay for this?" Even if some of the cures end up being more expensive than treating the symptoms, the US can always go back to the tax rates from before 1980 when the rich were taxed more (much more actually) than the relatively tiny amount in 2020. Taxing the extremely rich also helps fix the problem of income inequality! For solving this complex problem, there needs to me many tactics. Other necessary tactics for helping people out of poverty are food stamps, scattered-site subsidized housing, giving more money to high-need schools (not less!), raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10 an hour (in 2020), etc. Certainly, a great way of helping those in poverty is to pay for their healthcare! With programs like Medicaid, people will get preventative treatment, which is cheaper and safer than the alternative.
Conservative extremism: The mostly religious founders of the US strongly wanted separation of church and state. The message of Jesus is to give away everything to follow God. Jesus would eat with sinners. When asked about politics (specifically taxes), Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Nonetheless, some self proclaimed Christians turn their religion towards politics to control others on various social and moral issues. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Are intentionally extreme parody religions such as Pastafarianism and Satanism extreme in a harmful way? They usually don't show up except to fight when things get really bad, like when Pastafarians fought the government's forcing of science teachers to say that intelligent design is a scientific theory or when Satanists fight statues of the 10 Commandments in front of courthouses. Despite what they said to try to win their legal cases, we can all be sure that no one literally believes Pastafarianism. Also, the Satanic Temple (and even the more bizarre Church of Satan) is an atheistic group who don't actually worship Satan.
Facts and common sense: Religious institutions wield great power to control others. The original message of a religious text can easily become corrupted in favor of power, money, and controlling the media, schools, and laws. Things become awkward when self proclaimed Christian businesspeople illegally refuse to bake cakes for a same-sex weddings. Certainly, no one can legally be forced to perform the same-sex wedding, but we cannot allow what is often the majority of society (or even part of society) to legally discriminate against people for what is scientifically not their choice. Certainly, as long as churches do not get involved in politics or business, they should be able to do whatever they want within their walls other than harming children or non-consenting adults, and its members should be able to personally express themselves however they like as long as it does not interfere with their job. Freedom is highly valuable, so let's give people the freedom to be religious or not, but governments cannot become involved with religion, which is why the 2022 Supreme Court's ruling that states can pay tuition for students attending religious schools is a concerning precedent.
Conservative extremism: It's fine that he says horrible things about people who are handicapped, female, war veterans, Mexican, Muslim, Black, etc. and bullies anyone who disagrees with him by using a barrage of lies and conspiracy theories to confuse the voters knowing that several of his lies will stick. This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Liberal extremism: Trump's opponent isn't an extremist Democrat, so Democrats should vote 3rd party instead of for the "Democrat". This extremist denial of basic facts stops any progress towards a solution.
Facts and common sense: Most of the things he says are lies, insults, and conspiracy theories (Google it!). He lies for his own benefit even though it tears the country apart and increases the extremism in the country (extremism is the largest enemy to getting anything done in a democracy). Most psychologists believe Trump is a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder, perhaps also having paranoid personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. He has made a career of profiting from loopholes, not paying contractors, and his many bankruptcies. He gets away with it because he is skilled at twisting up the legal system with noise until he gets his way most of the time. He strongly needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut for the sake of young people in this country who might want somebody to look up to. Unlike con men and reality TV stars, professional adults cannot just say whatever horrible thing pops into their head, but our president should? Uneducated white males are the main backers of Trump even though Trump doesn't want to give them the education needed to make it fine for immigrants to take the most unpleasant jobs. Trump rarely supported wearing a mask before and during Trump getting and giving COVID from not wearing a mask! He threatens riots if he is not elected. He won't say who he owes $400,000,000 to. When asked on stage, he won't publicly denounce white supremacy (only sometimes when he's far from a stage). His current wife is 24 years younger, he has slept with prostitutes, and he has often bragged about all the beautiful women that are nice to him because "he's the king." He is literally a reality TV star. Seriously! He was seriously voted to lead a country that once lead the world by example.
Am I just focusing on the negative Trump facts? Yes. Apart from the very-destructive things he very frequently said, he was just a typical Republican president. A strength he has is attacking people he doesn't like from every angle in an overwhelming barrage of lies and half truths. Another strength is getting the average person to like him. However, there are a couple things in the negative list that alone make him unfit for the highest office or even any professional office! So who cares about the positives? I kind of understand why a Republican might vote for Trump over a Democrat, especially if that Democrat has their own problems, but I will never fully understand how Trump won a Republican primary out of many other candidates. It must be because uneducated/inexperienced people truly don't understand how to tell the difference between the truth and a shiny attention-grabbing lie/persona.
I have spoken to Trump fans who say "All politicians lie, and Trump isn't a politician", but Trump lies MUCH more than any real politician (Google the fact-check statistics!). I have spoken to Trump fans who say "Trump isn't a dirty politician", but Trump owes more money than anyone else, has more scandals, and tells way more lies than any real politician ever would. Other Trump fans say "The 'fake' news is making Trump look bad", but having prior knowledge or doing fact checking reveals that all of Trump's conspiracy theories are the fake lies! If I believed everything Trump and fake-news conspiracy websites said, I would think he was sent from God to save us from his imagined existential threats to America, but, if you know anything about the topics that Trump talks about, you know that he is conning you with an attention grabbing arsenal of lies and conspiracies. His presidency isn't his first con, see: The Trump Network, Trump Institute, Trump University, etc.
Perhaps the core issue is that some people are tired of being told what they should be doing their whole lives and feel rejected by main society, and Trump is an extremely confident person in power who tells people that, not only that they are wonderful just the way they are (which might be true), but they never need to learn more or grow and that they belong just the way they are. What else could explain the deep allegiance people feel for Trump? It is ironic that followers of Trump call the rest of us sheeple when they are the ones who are being manipulated by Trump.