It is common knowledge that a “Crazy Quilt” is a type of bedcover, traditionally made in North America, consisting of sewn together patches of fabrics, randomly chosen in varying sizes, shapes and colors. The appearance of the finished item suggests to us a natural and useful analogy to the randomness and variation of public opinion in our Nation.
At election time in a two party democracy, voters are at times obliged, to set aside certain of their nuanced views and of necessity, cast their vote for the candidate of the two, whose platform is perceived as closest to their personal interest and their general philosophy of governance. In this writing, we are interested in examining the etiology of individual opinion in our democracy, and the dynamics of possible change.
Among the divergent views on human perception and knowledge, as our regular readers would be aware, our eternal indebtedness is to the 19Th Century philosopher, John Locke. In his elegant, “Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” Locke famously declared that man is born with a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) and that his knowledge is acquired by his experience. This classic view of epistemology held by the “Empirical” school of philosophy, we maintain, makes greater rational sense than the “Rationalist” thinkers, who insisted that man was born, already possessing certain items of inspired knowledge.
For us then, it would consistently and logically follow, that perceptions of reality, and consequent judgments, moral, social, political and otherwise, are developed by the individual based upon his lifetime of experience. How happy we would be, as inhabitants of this complex Planet, were it only so fundamentally logical and acceptably simple.
The etiology of the variety of opinion is inclusive of many individuals guided (or, misguided) by thoughtless and ethnocentric early childhood teaching and/or immaturely perceived experience. The foregoing can possibly result, as life proceeds, in resultant feelings of insecurity, low self- esteem and poor self-image, based principally upon the later revelation and challenge of an apparently inconsistent, objective reality. Such consequential lack of personal confidence is often manifested, empirically, by a neurotic lust for the approval of the perceived, “accepted others,” and the self- deprecation of personal opinion, leading to the sad pathology of tribalism. Our Democratic Republic is functionally disenfranchised by the phenomenon of neurotic “group think,” or “tribalism,” in lieu of spontaneous and democratically expressed “Will of the People.”
It is unfortunate that several patches of the American crazy quilt of popular opinion are composed of these pathetic and intractable tribal voters whose salient failing is not founded in debatable principle but rather, in self- impaired persona.
A colorfully enthusiastic if, worrisome patch of the American crazy quilt, is composed of one-issue voters, dedicatedly mono -focused on one specific issue; whether it be gun rights, abortion, global warming, immigration policy, civil rights, gay rights, government health insurance, environmental or any other (for them) solely determinative issue. Such people effectively wear, “horse blinders,” preventing them from the consideration of any of the plethora of other unrelated positions in the candidate’s platform (some, conceivably, against their personal interest). The skewed result is an inaccurate and unbalanced statement of national will. These highly dedicated and thoughtless voters are unwittingly destructive of the concept and virtues of governmental responsive democracy.
Because the foregoing “patches” of the American quilt, choose, to cast their vote based upon their fixed respective irrational motivations, it might be perceived as useless, as a practical matter, to attempt to disabuse them of their unwitting and disrespectful, waste and abuse of the voting franchise, and to marshal political arguments solely directed to the more rational, thoughtful American.
However, the universal right to vote is the inherently vital ingredient by which a democratic government is defined and guided. Accordingly, its existential importance might justify efforts to re-decorate America’s crazy quilt, to raise the awareness of those misguided citizens who do not choose to contemplate their own best interests and that of our Nation.
We are confident enough to believe that with reference to certain patches of non-thinking voters, particularly, those who vote to mindlessly replicate their parent’s traditional vote (ref. early essay, “Lichen People”) and voters who rely excessively upon the persuasive opinions of another, may be amenable to alternative and more rational views. The limited consciousness of “one-issue voters,” be can possibly be raised, so as to address necessary attention to the plural context of a candidate’s intended platform. In addition, a regular practice of popular distribution, by both parties, of objective (and accurate) written information, could conceivably lead to voting results that are more useful, meaningful and democratically referential for governance.
The larger piece of the American crazy quilt can suitably cast their votes, rationally and effectively, based upon an objective evaluation of the acceptability, or otherwise, of an incumbent’s record of performance, and their own political and moral beliefs.